This Employee Claims Sam's Club Wrote Him Up For Exercising A Federally Protected Right

In terms of tacky questions to ask your friends, "how much do you make?" is high on the list. But between coworkers, it's a federally protected right according to The National Labor Relations Board. The National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935, protects workers' rights to organize, including discussions about wages (via The National Labor Relations Board). This is still true even if an employer has a policy against it. While many think talking about money at work is against the rules or unprofessional, it can be incredibly beneficial. For those who hold marginalized identities like being a woman or a person of color, historically, pay for the same position can be unequal for those who do not have marginalized identities. This is often called "the wage gap," or the difference in pay between two groups for the same job. 

According to American Progress, the current rate for women is about 82 cents per dollar that a man makes. But this statistic is often toggled to white women and white men. For women of color, the gap is even wider. Some sources report that Black women make 62 cents per dollar, Indigenous women make 57 cents, and Latina women make a measly 54 cents per dollar that their male peers earn. Talking to your coworkers about how much everyone makes can expose these inequalities and help your underpaid coworkers, or even yourself, obtain equal wages.

Employees are legally allowed to discuss wages

An employee of wholesale giant Sam's Club posted on Reddit that after he exercised his federally protected right to discuss his pay with his co-workers, he came in to work one day to find a concerning message on his online employee profile. Among other things, the message from his superior read, "I also spoke to him about talking with other people about their wages. I told him that it was not very respectful to other associates to ask about their wages." The user, lit-incense, gave some context to the situation, saying, "For reference, I didn't get new hire credit applied to me for my previous work experience. I asked new hires their wage and they got hired in more than me," according to the comments on the Reddit post. As many commenters pointed out, being reprimanded for discussing wages violates the National Labor Relations Act.

Insperity summarizes this type of violation by detailing what employers can do, or in this case, not do, saying, "You cannot forbid employees –- either verbally or in written policy –- from discussing salaries or other job conditions among themselves. Discussing salary at work is protected regardless of whether employees are talking to each other in person or through social media."