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I work in the IT department at a small company in the U.S. Recently the CEO approached me and stated that it has come to his attention that people are sharing salary information. For whatever reason, he is assuming that this sharing of information is taking place because someone has access to confidential HR information. He refused to provide me with any additional details on why he thinks this is the case. Based on what he told me, I can only think that he is making a faulty assumption, he has given me no reason to believe it couldn't be two employees having their own discussion about what they make.

Needless to say, I took the time to demonstrate to him that each company resources is only accessible to users or groups who have been specifically granted access to that resource. Nothing was found that would indicate anyone has access to anything they shouldn't. He remains unconvinced had has come back at me several times regarding the issue.

At this point I am getting frustrated and feel unconformable with the whole situation, not just because it's wasted a ton of my time, but also because there is nothing illegal or wrong about employees sharing salary information. As an IT person, I don't mind demonstrating correct permissions/access to company resources. But I simply don't care what employee might be talking about among themselves. That has nothing to do with me, and I'm not sure how I can tactfully get the CEO to realize that.

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  • why does he think this is the case? – bharal Oct 29 '18 at 21:51
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    "That has nothing to do with me" - seems to me the CEO took it upon himself to make it something to do with you. Sorry to say..... – PoloHoleSet Oct 29 '18 at 22:01
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    I'm not an IT person, but I know enough about it to know that people have the goofiest assumptions about your role in the company. Unfortunately, many people don't need all of the facts, if any, to come to a conclusion. You did the right thing. Eventually the truth will come out but it is not likely that you will receive an apology. – Den Warren Oct 30 '18 at 9:09
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At this point I am getting frustrated and feel unconformable with the whole situation, not just because it's wasted a ton of my time, but also because there is nothing illegal or wrong about employees sharing salary information.

Regarding the time wasted, I strongly suggest you document that you were assigned such tasks so you have a paper trail (if you haven't already).

Now, regarding the second part, that might depend. At many workplaces this is a sensitive topic to discuss freely and so openly in the workplace, as it could lead to uncomfortable or undesired situations (people comparing themselves to others, professional envy, etc.).

Still, even if this wasn't true, your CEO doesn't like this for some reason. If he directly asked you something it would be wise to comply (even more if you say "I don't mind demonstrating correct permissions/access to company resources")

I suggest that you approach your CEO and politely ask him everything he needs you to provide him so he can dismiss such possibility, so this doesn't turn into an endless one-by-one request exchange. This will help you organize yourself further to compensate for any time you lost on other tasks.

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    I'm not sure what more OP can do to 'comply'. S/he's already demonstrated resource permissions and also stated 'Nothing was found that would indicate anyone has access to anything they shouldn't' which I take it mean also checked any relevant logs. – jcm Oct 30 '18 at 0:01
  • @jcm I hope you are not suggesting that OP stops complying...That is why I suggested OP to ask the manager for an explicit list of things he needs to be "satisfied", so this does not turn into an endless request. – DarkCygnus Oct 30 '18 at 0:07
  • Of course not, I don't see how the comment can be read that way. Given that the CEO hasn't been satisfied I'm not too confident the list will have the desired effect. Perhaps OP is right in that the CEO needs to look at other possibilities why this is happening. Anyway, the OP has accepted this answer so it's moot. – jcm Oct 30 '18 at 0:12
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    True, it does seems that the CEO is somehow biased to think the issue is here, and being exhaustive and explicit may help in dismissing any doubts that the problem originated there, and make him more open to other possibilities. – DarkCygnus Oct 30 '18 at 0:14
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    @DarkCygnus The National Labor Relations Act. This article, Can Employees Discuss Pay and Salaries?, lists some example lawsuits and here's an NPR article about pay secrecy policies. – BSMP Oct 30 '18 at 3:25
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I would suggest getting an audit tool (even a time-limited demo) that can produce a detailed report on who has access to the data, and tell him, "I wanted to triple-check that what I showed you was accurate, so I used a security auditing tool to verify the permissions access to this information was as stringent as I told you. Here is the proof."

Use the word "Proof." Do not use "Results, report" or anything like that. Use the word "Proof."

It shows you understand the seriousness of the situation, and that you're not trying to hide anything.

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  • This wouldn't really prove much. Valid audits are done by third parties and, without auditable history, don't show what the state of things were when the CEO formed his opinion. – Blrfl Oct 30 '18 at 11:32
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    @Blrfl - You do what you can with what's available. – Wesley Long Oct 30 '18 at 14:12

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