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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.

marked as duplicate by mcknz, gnat, Chris E, Dawny33, paparazzo Apr 8 '16 at 3:22

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    I thought legal stuff is not the remit of this site. Ask a lawyer. – Ed Heal Apr 7 '16 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. – Martin Carney Apr 7 '16 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 '16 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 '16 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 '16 at 8:25
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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.

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    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 '16 at 22:26
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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 '16 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. – FiringSquadWitness Apr 7 '16 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. – Charles E. Grant Apr 8 '16 at 0:31

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