At-will employment and discussion of salary

An employer under an at-will contract can fire you for almost any reason. My question is whether there are special rules concerning whether it’s okay to fire an employee for discussing his salary with other employees.

The interest here is not practical, so don’t worry about that…

I am aware of no reason why they couldn’t fire you. discussing salary’s does not put you in a ‘protected class’

I expect you could be fired easily and without legal recourse.

Some companies consider salaries to be proprietary and have a policy against sharing it, even with other employees. So, yes, you can be fired for it.

In fact, with at-will employment you can be fired for no reason at all.

Employers don’t want employees discussing pay because it brings perceived inequaltities to light. You can cause a lot of problems in the workplace by comparing pay stubs when people aren’t paid based on fixed rates. If they state it’s a matter of policy not to discuss pay, they’d be firing you for a violation of policy. Not that they need a justifiable reason, but in that case they’d have one.

Okay, someone I know believes there are jurisdictions under which it is illegal to fire someone for discussing their salary with other employees, was checking to see if anyone here knew of such a jurisdiction. Looks like there probably are none.

I disagree that that would be a justifiable reason, but it certainly sounds like a formally defensible one.

Right–it’s just that there are certain reasons you can’t be fired for. That doesn’t mean there must be a reason in order for you to be fired.

I’m pretty sure the only reasons that you can’t be fired for an “at-will” employment environment in the US is illegal discrimination. If you have some magic lists of things that you believe are “fire proof”, please share…but talking about your pay isn’t one of them.

I’m pretty sure about that as well.

I do not have any idea why you think I would think I have some such list.

My bad, I thought you were defending your friend’s position among others.

The only thing I can think of is that there might be some protections for people trying to establish unions in some jurisdictions, that may be mistranslated into protections for talking about pay and benefits.

Although California is an at-will state, apparently discussing your salary is considered a “protected activity” for which you cannot be fired. From the California Department of Industrial Relations website:

Ahah! Thanks for finding that.

I meant ‘justifiable’ in the sense that it is a violation of policy as opposed to a whim, which is what I think you mean by formally defensible. In the greater sense, ‘justifiable’ is open to argument.

Agreed on all counts.

The NLRA gives most employees the right to discuss their pay and benefits, even if they are not part of a union. Employers are not allowed to fire employees for discussing pay.

Firing someone for no reason can have leagal results, at will or no at will. But in a at will state a person can be discharged with out giving a reason.

Yes, if you are “let go” in an at will state, the employer likely does not have to give a reason. Then it’s up to you to prove the action was improperly motivated by a protected activity or protected class if you choose to sue.

So what are the rules? Fired generally means leave nw, and you get paid up to today because you seriously or habitually broke rules. Dismissed, discharged, or “let go” means not that you did something horrible but we don’t want you working for us any more - that legal minimum separation pay rules apply - just that, unlike say, Canada, the separation pay for even a long term worker in at will states is quite small?

I’m going to side with Emmy here, and provide a cite. From NLRB v. Main Street Terrace Care Center:

Here’s another page that explains things more plainly:

I’m not a lawyer.