In the USA there is a strong and widespread taboo against sharing details of your salary with co-workers. Many company handbooks explicitly prohibit it. But to my knowledge, it's only cultural; I don't know of any laws against it.

Suppose I break taboo and tell a co-worker my salary (especially outside the workplace) and my boss finds out. Does my boss/company have any legal recourse against me? Can they legally punish me, such as with a pay cut, or fire me?

Is it any different if I ask a co-worker their salary package, and they do or don't answer?

To be clear, I'm not asking about the social ramifications. I understand those quite well. I'm asking about the legal ramifications.

  • 2
    I thought legal stuff is not the remit of this site. Ask a lawyer.
    – Ed Heal
    Apr 7, 2016 at 22:19
  • @EdHeal This question definitely comes close to the edge, but it is something that most HR reps would be able to answer without having to consult the legal department. This answer in meta describes the line pretty well, and I think I'm on the "safe" side of it for Workplace SE.
    – Mar
    Apr 7, 2016 at 22:28
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    voted to close because this seems to me company-specific. I would think if two employees choose to discuss their salaries with each other it's their right, but we can't specifically address what the potential impacts might be.
    – mcknz
    Apr 7, 2016 at 22:34
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    Do you actually have a clause in the contract or company policy that says "employees are prohibited from disclosing their salary to another employee" or are you just talking about consequences of "breaking taboo?"
    – Brandin
    Apr 7, 2016 at 23:21
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    Voted to reopen. The linked question is about the taboo of discussing wages and strategies to get coworkers to open up, which is definitely not what this question is about. The legality of wage discussions is clearly defined for the US at the federal level and this question is on-topic as per the meta question that the OP himself linked.
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 8, 2016 at 8:25

1 Answer 1


There is no legal recourse from asking or telling anyone your salary. However, telling a coworker your salary is bad for a couple reasons:

1) You could find out you are very underpaid, or vice versa, your coworker finds out he's underpaid. This causes rifts in the team and can potentially cause people to leave.

2) If your boss is smart, he'll likely not favor you asking people their salaries. It causes issues when people know how much each other make. Consider how this might affect your work relationships.

Why do you want to know anyway? Your coworkers' salaries are between them and the company, not them and you. Asking for an increase in pay because "my coworkers are making more" isn't a viable argument.

  • 1
    there is legal recourse in some cases - and very likely in this case since "the company handbook prohibits it" and it's likely the employee signed a document saying they would abide by the rules in it. You really should revise your answer... unless you're a lawyer and prepared to defend the OP
    – Jim
    Apr 7, 2016 at 22:26
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    see theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/…
    – mcknz
    Apr 7, 2016 at 22:27
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    Employers do sometimes include unlawful policies because they either 1) don't know they are illegal, or 2) employees don't have the resources to go to court to force the employer to comply, or defend themselves if the company takes action against them.
    – mcknz
    Apr 7, 2016 at 23:10
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    If your boss is smart, he will pay you a competitive wage that won't cause you to feel underpaid if your colleagues are on a different wage. Apr 7, 2016 at 23:18
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    "Asking for an increase in pay because "my coworkers are making more" isn't a viable argument." It certainly can be. If my co-workers are making more then I am for equivalent work then that's certainly valuable for me to know. See Lily Ledbetter. Folks love markets with asymmetric information, at least they do if they're the one holding the superior information. Apr 8, 2016 at 0:31

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