Employees talk about a lot of things at work – who’s going to win “Dancing with the Stars”, which team won the game last night, who’s had plastic surgery – and how much money they are getting paid.
Many companies have policies against employees discussing their pay. These policies violate federal labor law. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) contains a provision that gives employees the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other. The law entitles employees to have such discussions, but does not require employers to allow employees to do so during times they are supposed to be working. However, not allowing these discussions and allowing other discussions which are not related to work, may be construed as an intent to violate the employee’s rights under the NLRA.
As an alternative to completely barring employees from discussing their pay, you may choose to instruct employees on the importance of devoting oneself to work during work hours. While non-work related conversations will occur, moderation is usually best. Be careful that this instruction to employees is not done in a threatening manner.
The best way to avoid conflict in the workplace is by promoting what is right at your company. Employees should easily know that your pay and benefit practices are competitive. The more employees know where they stand, and the more they feel that they have a stake in the company and its success, the less need they will have to spend time talking about their pay.