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US Labor Board: It's OK To Discuss Work and Pay with Coworkers On Social Sites 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-talk-numbers dept.
itwbennett writes "Your employer won't like it, but they can't stop you from discussing working conditions and compensation with your coworkers on social media. In his most recent social media memo, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Lafe Solomon said that in 6 of the 7 employers' social media policies he reviewed, he found violations of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to join labor unions and to discuss working conditions with each other."
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US Labor Board: It's OK To Discuss Work and Pay with Coworkers On Social Sites

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  • But still, some things are a matter of good taste. Sure, you can do it on your own time, but I know I wouldn't want to know what my co-workers make. Not that I think I'm under paid or anything, but it's information that simply doesn't affect me. How is discussing it with anyone going to help me?
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:35PM (#40239299)

      How is discussing it with anyone going to help me?

      If you are ever in a position to negotiate a raise for yourself then it will be useful.

      Such as if you are interviewing for a new job.

      Or during performance evaluations.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      If you learn Joe is making $20/hour more than you, it might be time to ask for a raise, or start looking for a new job of equal pay.

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      If that's your choice, then by all means, do it. However, in that situation, it's YOU choosing not to take part in the disclosure. In the situation in the article, it was the EMPLOYER forcing their will on you, and robbing you of that choice. Completely different situation.

  • Oh, Thanks! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gryle (933382) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:30PM (#40239255)
    So glad to have your permission to exercise my right to free speech on a social network NOT owned/controlled by my employer
    • by agm (467017)

      It's in my contract not to reveal my rate to other employees or contractors. It doesn't bother me - what I earn is my business and what someone else earns is theirs.

      • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:5, Informative)

        by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:42PM (#40239355)
        It should bother you, as it's completely unethical (and hopefully illegal, but obviously that depends on laws where you live) to put such a stipulation in and reflects extremely poorly on the character of those in charge at your employer. If you choose not to share your wages/salary with anyone else, that is your prerogative. Your employer still has no right to demand that you not share that information.
        • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:4, Informative)

          by agm (467017) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:44PM (#40239381)

          It should bother you, as it's completely unethical (and hopefully illegal, but obviously that depends on laws where you live) to put such a stipulation in

          There's nothing unethical about that at all. A contract is a two way agreement. They have to agree and so do I. So long as both parties agree, what's the issue?

          and reflects extremely poorly on the character of those in charge at your employer. If you choose not to share your wages/salary with anyone else, that is your prerogative. Your employer still has no right to demand that you not share that information.

          They are not my employer, they are my client. And they didn't demand, they negotiated.

          • There's nothing unethical about that at all. A contract is a two way agreement. They have to agree and so do I. So long as both parties agree, what's the issue?

            The issue is that it is an attempt to control the flow of information so that they can treat people unfairly. The only reason you would ever need such a provision is if you were already or were planning to pay people below their value, and wanted to keep them from finding out. So at best, it's an unnecessary provision. More likely, it is there to enable unfair treatment and is unethical.

            Furthermore, when one party has almost all the bargaining power (as is the case in most employment agreements), they can a

            • Regardless of the level of politeness they used, it is a perfectly reasonable use of the term to say they demanded that of you. You're splitting hairs.

              In the same way they demand that he work 40 hours a week, demand that he only take X days off a year and demand that he dress appropriately for the workplace and observe their policies?

              It's not splitting hairs - it's a negotiated contract term, the same as any of the above that I listed. It's no different simply because some find it objectionable.

              • Uh, yeah. Actually, I would call all those things demands too. Again, this is not some unreasonable or unprecedented use of the term.
                • That makes more sense to me. The way it was originally phrased gave the impression you were singling out this one requirement for the name 'demand'.

            • by agm (467017)

              There's nothing unethical about that at all. A contract is a two way agreement. They have to agree and so do I. So long as both parties agree, what's the issue?

              The issue is that it is an attempt to control the flow of information so that they can treat people unfairly. The only reason you would ever need such a provision is if you were already or were planning to pay people below their value, and wanted to keep them from finding out.

              Or you were wanting to pay someone above their value.

              Just because one person is paid more than another doesn't mean anyone is being paid below their value. In the interests of harmony it's sometimes best for those being paid less not to find out what those being paid more are paid.

              If those being paid less are not happy with their pay, then they should say something about it. At the end of the day what matters is whether you're happy with what you're getting and whether you came to a mutual agreement with yo

          • To negotiate you need to know what other vendors of you client (and employees of the client) are making. It is always in your favor to be able to have an open discussion about these, without worrying about what you are legally allowed to discuss about. The same applies to employees the TFA talks about, it is good to be allowed to talk about your pay to some coworker you trust. The more you know, the more leverage you have.

            • by Shavano (2541114)
              Exactly. If you talk to the other contractors, you may find out that they're paying you way less than another contractor and then you know that you can renegotiate when the contract expires and likely get a better rate.
            • by agm (467017)

              To negotiate you need to know what other vendors of you client (and employees of the client) are making.

              What you need to know if what you personally are willing to work for. That's what matters ina negotiation. If you get something you are happy with then there is no issue, regardless of how little or how much someone else gets.

              • by Klinky (636952)

                This must be why companies just randomly price their goods and never do market research to find out what price would net them the most profit.

              • I would normally be content with 150K for a senior programmer position in the bay area. But would I be happier with 1 million per year? Yes. But would I quote 1 million because I would be happier. No. I would quote what the market accepts. How would I know what the market accepts? I would look at what my peers are making, and set a negotiating price based on it. This has nothing do with happiness and all to do with what the market accepts. To know what the market accept, peers should be able to talk to each

                • by agm (467017)

                  If you are offered a significant pay rise with the condition to keep it to yourself, would you be wrong to accept? I don't think so.

            • by fnj (64210)

              To negotiate you need to know what other vendors of you[r] client ... are making.

              I don't think so. A negotiation of pay for services involves only the final drop-dead figure for what you are willing to work for, and the final drop-dead figure for what the client is willing to pay. The only basis for an agreement is that your figure is lower than his figure, and there is someplace between the two that you can agree on. It's a difficult and nerve-wracking process because neither of you can possibly know what

              • I don't think so. A negotiation of pay for services involves only the final drop-dead figure for what you are willing to work for, and the final drop-dead figure for what the client is willing to pay.

                How do you even know what the first figure you quote should be. Do you just think of a random number and quote. You would research and find out how much the others make. If 'the others' you ask are not allowed to tell you what they make, then how else can even you even come up with a number the client will not find outrageous. For example if I quote a million dollars an year for a junior programmer, I am pretty sure the client will not even want to submit a counter quote and just leave laughing.

          • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:5, Informative)

            by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:57PM (#40239465)

            Private contracts can not overrule the consumer or employee-protection laws. So ruled a judge when he threw-out most of Paypal's user contract (which claimed they had the right to freeze access to your money for six months and, at their sole discretion, close your account & keep the cash).

            Just because you sign a contract does not mean you sign-away your rights as protected by law. It sounds like your Employment contract violates the law which allows employees freedom to talk to one another about work conditions/pay.

          • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by VAElynx (2001046) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @10:32PM (#40240079)

            There's nothing unethical about that at all. A contract is a two way agreement. They have to agree and so do I. So long as both parties agree, what's the issue?

            The issue , and reason it's unethical is that there's an uneven balance of power. Hardly any employer has gone bankrupt due to employees leaving as a result of poor treatment (rather than them fucking up and running out of money), while people that don't put up with bullshit are running a solid risk of ending in the streets.
            The employee is replaceable , and hence, can't really set the conditions, unless he's in a highly skilled, and rare position of expertise.
            Which is why unions are such an awesome thing - they allow the employees to actually form a credible threat to whoever's screwing them over.

          • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by shentino (1139071) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @01:11AM (#40240999)

            A contract is only a two-way agreement when both sides have equal bargaining power.

            When one side holds all the cards and is in a position to dictate terms, it is very much a one way take it or leave it agreement usually riddled with the company getting all rights and you getting none.

            And in an economy where people are desperate for jobs and willing to sell their souls to the lowest bidder, the boss will win.

        • by brunes69 (86786)

          I have no idea in what industry you work in or kind of employment you have, but I can tell you that in professional industries (IT, software development, hardware, engineering, consulting, medical, science, business), it is HIGHLY TABOO to disclose your salary to other employees, let alone ask them what their salary was. The only exception to this is a union-type environment where everyone knows everyone else's salary de-facto. But if you aren't in a union, the #1 rule in fight club is that you do not talk

          • Re:Oh, Thanks! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Jaime2 (824950) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @10:37PM (#40240105)

            Of course it is. That's hundreds of years of cultural integration of employers demanding to have salary negotiations kept secret. It's always in the worker's interest for these negotiation to be public and always in the employer's interest to have them secret. So, your statement boils down to "It's always been like this". That's not new information. What is new is that a labor board has now stated that it's your right to discuss this information and it's illegal to prevent this discussion.

            This is a step forward in a better direction than labor unions. The problem I've always had with Unions is that you need to sign on with a slightly less abusive group to protect you from a more abusive group, you don't get to go your own way. Requiring open discussions of labor conditions is a step closer to a transparent labor market and more fair wages.

          • I work in IT. I have no problem disclosing my salary to someone else, and the only reason I wouldn't ask someone else is because they might prefer that information be private. But in general, there's no reason to avoid discussing compensation from the employee's perspective. It is a culture employers encourage because it gives them a massive advantage, but there's not actually anything wrong or impolite about it.
          • by Biff Stu (654099)

            I work for an engineering / science firm that does a lot of small contracts with billable hours. Most of the technical employees manage a contract or two. We need to know hourly salaries at proposal time to bid hours and determine budgets, and if anyone charges to the contract (peers, management, etc.) the person managing the contract can determine the salary.

    • It seems we increasingly do need to get that permission, to prevent employers from penalizing or firing us for exercising what ought to be obvious freedoms.
  • The employer can not include in their policy:

    "Don't release confidential guest, team member, or company information on social media...."

    "Offensive, demeaning, abusive, or inappropriate remarks are as out of place online as they are offline."

    "Think carefully about friending coworkers online."

    "Employees should report any unusual or inappropriate internet social media activity."

    And on and on.

    • Considering that the NLRB does not currently have a legal quorum, does this ruling even matter?
  • One of the messages of the latest NLRB memo is to avoid ambiguous language in social media policies and spell out situations to avoid, said Mayer Brown's Goodman...The NLRB seems to be on a "journey" to address social media in the workplace, Goodman said. The three memos, which don't lay out specific rules, may be confusing to many companies, she added.

    NLRB kinda sorta said what companies might should do; e.g. Don't be ambiguous. but they didn't exactly say how. Good work guys.

    • Actually, the NLRB was very specific. The entire point of the meme was to inform companies that their overly broad scial media policies would make a reasonable person believe they could not discuss their salary or working conditions. That's specifically against the law - a law he repeatedly sites in the memo. The easy way around the issue is to include repeated disclaimers that no part of this policy will in any way restrict the employee's rights to discuss their salary or work conditions. But they don'
    • by Shavano (2541114)

      NLRB kinda sorta said what companies might should do; e.g. Don't be ambiguous. but they didn't exactly say how. Good work guys.

      Sometimes you need to use a LITTLE imagination. They said that it was unlawful because it didn't except the Section 7 rights. If they had given a definition of "confidential information" that excepted Section 7 rights, that would have been fine. Even better would be to prominently display the workers' rights under Section 7 at the beginning of the policy manual AND specifically except it from the definition of "confidential information."

  • I mean, it's my understanding that an employer can terminate an employee for almost any reason imaginable, or no reason at all... and if none is given, wouldn't the onus fall on the employee to prove that the actual reason was one that is illegal?
    • by Mspangler (770054)

      "I mean, it's my understanding that an employer can terminate an employee for almost any reason imaginable, or no reason at all... and if none is given, wouldn't the onus fall on the employee to prove that the actual reason was one that is illegal?"

      Yes. True. And it's hard to prove. But if they don't disclose the reason, then you get your unemployment benefits. If they disclose the reason and it's not that you committed an actual crime, then you get your benefits. If they disclose the reason and it's on the

    • by stinerman (812158)

      Yes, that's generally the case. On an "at will" contract, you can be terminated for any reason that isn't explictily illegal. If the employer believes they were fired for an illegal reason, they have to make the case. The assumption is that terminations are for legal reasons absent evidenct to the contrary.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        That's my point... so I don't get why the US bothers to try to make laws like this that are only certain to be found inconvenient by some employers... when those same employers can just fire the employees anyways, and not give any reason for dismissal.
    • "At will" is a complete fucking scam. It's a license to fire for reasons that are completely unfair and effectively a license to engage in illegal discrimination.

    • by TRRosen (720617)

      While it's true that the employer is not required to give a reason there always is one. Because i wanted to, is a reason. Now if the employee files suit and their lawyer asks why they were fired, no judge in the world will accept "no reason" as an answer. There is always a reason.

      Also note just because a firing isn't illegal doesn't mean it's not actionable.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        Would a judge accept "because I wanted to"? Because that's pretty much the same as no reason, as far as I can see.
  • But if they find out they can make your work life rough on you.

    • by Mspangler (770054)

      "But if they find out they can make your work life rough on you."

      Yes indeed. But that is documentable, and quickly crosses the line to harassment. Which is actionable.
      Written records are your friends.

  • A corporation exists to make money, specifically profit. It wants to control all things that impact that result. Controlling information about employees, from employees, gives them an edge in the making of profit. Some of the thing a corporation might want to do, or assumes it can do to or with employees, is in fact illegal and they can't actually do those things. However, most large corporations also know that they can induce their employees to tow their corporate line with sanctions that while are perhaps

  • doesn't mean you 'should'.....

    it'd be relatively safe discussing compensation with coworkers when employees work under the same contract (e.g. union shop) or the wage scales are public knowledge (e.g. public sector jobs) and are adhered to.. BUT in other instances, it can be a very dangerous topic of discussion... you don't really want to be on either end of it where there is a significant discrepancy in pay, as it will rarely end well.

    and regardless of the legality of employers retaliating or discriminatin

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