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What if your boss tells you you can’t talk about pay rates?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2024 | Retaliation & Wrongful Termination

You get a new job, and you are talking with your coworkers during a break when you find out that you make much less money than they do. You’re doing the same job, but your starting rate is lower than what they got when they signed on. You go to your boss and ask why there’s such a discrepancy in pay.

Instead of fixing the discrepancy, your boss simply sends out an email to the entire company the next day. They tell all of the staff that they are prohibited from talking about pay and that there was an “incident” of this happening in the past. They say that, if it happens again, whoever is responsible will be fired.

Most of this is illegal

Some employers do try to send messages like this or set up these types of rules prohibiting conversations about pay. But under California’s Equal Pay Act, this is explicitly illegal. An employer cannot tell you you’re prohibited from discussing wages. Your right to talk about how much you are paid with your coworkers is legally protected. No one can infringe on that right, not even your employer.

In the above example, there’s another problem: Retaliation. If your boss cuts your pay rate, cuts your hours or even fires you outright for talking about wages, that’s a form of illegal retaliation. Even sending the email threatening termination could be a violation of your rights because your boss is trying to circumvent the law.

This can be quite frustrating and complex. You need to know exactly what legal steps you can take at this time. You do have rights under California law.