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I'm not from the US and not familiar with its labor laws. I applied with a company as a software developer that would work on 4-5 month contracts with its clients. There were some red flags, like how they wanted me to lie on my resume, so in the final interview I asked for ridiculously high pay to disqualify myself. They gave me a job offer with that pay.

I'm very unsure what I'm going to do next. They told me I would sign the paper work on the first day of training, and I asked for a copy of it to review and they gave it to me. In the job offer and employee contracts it states

Please note that the details of your compensation are to remain strictly confidential.

and

Employee represents and agrees that he has received a copy of this Agreement to keep for his own records. Employee further agrees to maintain the confidentiality of and not disclose the terms and conditions contained in this Agreement, except as otherwise provided herein.

I can't find it now but I thought I read on this site that it's actually illegal for an employer to tell you not to disclose how much you make. Anyway, I asked on law.se if this is legal to have in a contract, but my question here is, is this common in the US?

Do employers expect you to not sign paper work prior to starting a new job? Do they try to keep your employment contract as confidential as possible? Why is this?

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    Technically, it seems you violated the agreement already by disclosing the fact that you are not allowed to disclose conditions of the agreeement. But perhaps this part is better for legal SE. – Brandin May 26 '17 at 11:41
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    Why did you attempt to make them disqualify you? If you're not satisfied/comfortable with the arrangement, decline the final interview/job offer. – alroc May 26 '17 at 11:45
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    @Brandin Wouldn't this only be a violation if the contract is already signed? – Maarten Bamelis May 26 '17 at 12:23
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    If the pay is high enough to make you comfortable with any misgivings you have, perhaps you should just accept? And be prepared if things don't work out, but you should be prepared in any case. – Brandin May 26 '17 at 12:38
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    @Brandin Saying that you have a non-disclosure agreement is not a violation of a non-diclosure agreement. In fact, it's one of the few things a tight NDA would allow you to disclose. Otherwise, the signer would only be permitted to say "I can't confirm nor deny that I have a contract" which is ridiculous to the extreme. – Chris E May 26 '17 at 14:15
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From my experience, this is a common line to have in an offer letter in the US. There's been many great discussions here on Workplace SE arguing if employees should or should not discuss compensation, however, in the US, there are laws that protect such activity.

(Disclosure: I am not a lawyer, you may want to consult one before making any decisions) In the US, the National Labor Relations Board actively protects employee's rights, including anti-unionization activity by employers. The basis of their work and the protections offered is through the National Labor Relations Act. Over the years, the NLRB has determined that employees discussing compensation packages constitutes as protected activity, regardless of the presence of a union, so long as it is with other current employees and on their own time.

In reality, your employer could terminate your employment for breaching this part of the contract even if it's later found to be unenforceable. While you would have a good chance at winning a case in court, it's a long process and may not be worth the trouble.

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    Its common for employers to try and put wording which is not justiciable ie is automatically void as it breaches employment law – Neuromancer May 26 '17 at 13:40
  • @Neuromancer thanks that's good to know. In my country this isn't very common. – someqs May 28 '17 at 0:33
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I assume here you are working for some kind of employment agency.

Requiring you to keep secret your pay is standard. The reason is that if you tell the "client" what you are paid, then the "client" might try to hire you away or even get a different agency to hire you instead. Another serious potential problem is that your pay could be revealed to OTHER workers from the same agency working at the same client.

For example, let's say the agency has 3 workers at the client. They are paying 2 of them $35 an hour and they are paying you $55 an hour and all three of you are doing exactly the same thing. Now, suppose you go and tell the other 2 programmers that the agency is paying you $55 an hour. What do you think will happen? The need for a confidentiality agreement should be obvious from this example.

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    Plus the client may find out two are making $35 an hour, one at $55 an hour and he is paying $100+ an hour each, this happens a lot with employment agencies. – The Wandering Dev Manager May 26 '17 at 15:22
  • Not necessarily. Even in regular jobs, yakking about one's pay is discouraged, especially among salaried folks. – Xavier J May 26 '17 at 18:22
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Please note that the details of your compensation are to remain strictly confidential.

This is standard practice for several reasons. First it is so that you retain compensation amounts against other employees so that there is no friction or struggle on the topic of pay vs rank, getting paid differently than an employee than another employee of the same stature, or any other HR nightmarish situation.

Employee represents and agrees that he has received a copy of this Agreement to keep for his own records. Employee further agrees to maintain the confidentiality of and not disclose the terms and conditions contained in this Agreement, except as otherwise provided herein.

I'm no lawyer, but this just seems like legal garble to prevent the employer from any nonsense that may happen from leaked compensation. If there is a difference in contractor rates, there may be a reputation of playing favorites or unfair treatment.

AFAIK, I don't think it's ILLEGAL to disclose how much you are making if you are an employee, but it may be within an employer's right to discharge or let you go for reasons up to their discretion. Some states have an "at-will" policy for employers right to terminate with any or no cause. So if you do disclose that information, and they find out, that could be their cause to let you go, but you won't be charged with criminal offenses or a contract breach.

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    Discussing compensation as well as working conditions is protected behavior under federal law. It's one of the few things they can't let you go for. – stannius May 26 '17 at 18:11
  • imo, that's controversial, as it's hard to prove if it's an "at-will" state. – Mike May 26 '17 at 18:14
  • Well that's true of pretty much any of the protected classes and activities. – stannius May 26 '17 at 18:33
  • I agree. If its not an "at will" state, there must be justification of firing, but not having worked in another state I don't have any anecdotes. – Mike May 26 '17 at 18:36

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