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How Keeping Salaries Secret Makes Employees Question Wage Equality

When employers make salary strictly confidential it makes employees complicit in the equality of wages. For employees to discuss salary and wages with co-workers has always been something that was discouraged, if not formally forbidden.

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell

What’s the Latest Development?

It is in the employer’s best interest to keep salary wages secret because it can cause problems in the workplace. However, secrecy in the workplace leads to curiosity among employees as to how much money the other makes. If two people work in the same position, one may feel slighted to know a colleague is making a substantial amount more. This may result in a request for a raise, or there could be a change in their work behavior—making them difficult to work with. According to a survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research,“19 percent of employees’ workplaces formally prohibit discussing wages and salaries, and another 31 percent said it’s discouraged.” For employers to keep wages a secret can possibly make issues of equality worse. Employees are complicit when it comes to how much a position pays because of inequality issues. Employers can face legal actions if an employee believes they are being paid less than another employee because of gender and/or race. The Paycheck Fairness Act voted to include provisions that will make it illegal for companies that take action against employees that disclose information about their salary. It is believed that if salary and wages become accepted to discuss, many people would probably shy away from talking about it. Many people have a fear of discussing money in general, due to the complications it has the potential to create. In some societies, it is rude to inquire about the income of another person. It is considered a private matter; one that many voluntarily choose to remain secretive about. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Employers exercise secrecy when it comes to employee wages to protect the company. However, secrecy creates curiosity because people want to know why it is a big secret if everything is fair. If the Fairness Act is passed, employers will no longer be able to take action against employees that choose to share their salary information with co-workers. Whether or not a person chooses to disclose their salary with another will be a personal decision. 


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