You might be old enough to remember a time when it was unacceptable to talk about how much you made. You just didn't do it. The rules of society considered talking about your pay rude and even somewhat gauche. But times have changed. People are now more willing than ever to discuss how much they make with just about anyone.
So what do you do if you hear your employees discussing their pay? There is not much you can do. The law is very clear in this matter. Under section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), people have a legal right to discuss how much they make. They can talk about hourly wages, benefits, bonuses, etc. The law even gives them the legal right to discuss their managers and employers.
In a nutshell, you are powerless to do anything about employees discussing such things. Not only can you not bar such discussions, you cannot even discourage them. You cannot retaliate in the hope of preventing future discussions.
The Purpose of the NLRA
To understand why you can't interfere with an employee's right to talk about pay, you need to understand the intent of the NLRA. The law was enacted in 1935 as a way to protect worker rights. Bear in mind that labor conditions were very different back then.
Regulators, in the attempt to balance the right to organize with the business owner's right to operate as he sees fit, wanted to make sure employers did not silence efforts to unionize. By making it illegal to interfere with worker discussions about pay, benefits, etc., regulators virtually guaranteed union organizers had free reign to gin up support.
Whether we agree with the thinking back then or not, the rules have benefited workers ever since. Workers can freely talk about anything relating to their employment (with the obvious exception of revealing company secrets) regardless of whether unionization is in play.
Try to Find out Why
While you cannot prevent employees from talking about their pay, you can attempt to find out why they are doing it. Knowing what motivates them may give you insight into how you can improve the employer-employee relationship.
Having said that, you have to be very careful about what you say and do in your attempt to understand what is going on. Any language or action on your part perceived by employees as an attempt to quell their discussions could come back to haunt you in litigation. Your best course of action is to simply listen and observe.
You obviously don't want unhappy employees. If spending time listening to them can help you better understand their unhappiness, you can come up with strategies to fix things. That is really the only valid reason for wanting to know why workers are discussing their pay.
Get Your Payroll House in Order
On the outside chance that your employees are unhappy because payroll is a mess, the obvious solution is to get things in order. A good place to start is by contacting us. We are a nationally known payroll processing company offering a variety of solutions to companies of all sizes.
Our cloud-based payroll solutions offer employee access to payroll information by way of individualized accounts. Giving your workers access could be a big step toward improving the employer-employee relationship.
You can contract with us for a basic payroll service in which you do some of the work and we take care of the rest. If you are looking for an all-in-one payroll package that leaves everything entirely to us, we have solutions for that as well.