While employers frequently attempt to restrict discussion among employees regarding pay, recent legislation in Connecticut prohibits employers from disciplining or otherwise retaliating against employees who discuss wage information.
On July 2, 2015, Connecticut Governor Daniel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act 15-196, entitled An Act Concerning Pay Equity and Fairness. The act prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, discriminating or retaliating against, or otherwise penalizing any employee who discloses or discusses the amount of his or her wages or the wages of another employee who voluntarily disclosed their wages; or inquires about the wages of another employee. It also prohibits employers from requiring an employee to sign a waiver giving up his or her rights under the act. Employees who believe there has been a violation have two years to bring a direct action in court. If a violation is found, an employer may be liable for “compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs, punitive damages and such legal and equitable relief as the court deems just and proper.”
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) already guarantees employees — both unionized and non-unionized — the right to engage in “concerted activities for mutual aid or protection,” which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) interprets as providing employees the right to discuss their wages. While many employers prohibit disclosure or discussion of confidential or proprietary information, the NLRB may insert itself if the language is overgeneralized. With its new act, Connecticut has gone one step further than the NLRA by codifying the rule, putting in place a specific enforcement mechanism, and setting forth available remedies. In addition, the Connecticut law applies to all employees, while the NLRA excludes certain managerial and supervisory employees from its protections.
Based on the protections set forth in this new statute, as well as those already afforded by the NLRA, employers should review their handbooks and other policies and procedures to ensure they are not impermissibly restricting employees’ rights to discuss their wages.
For more information on this new statute, or for assistance updating employment policies and procedures, please contact: