Companies often pay similarly-qualified men and women different amounts for the same work. As you can likely guess, women are the ones disadvantaged by this arrangement. Companies receive the same caliber of work for less money, while women systemically make less for the same effort than their male peers do.
While California has made significant strides toward closing the pay gap between men and women in the last decade, the discrepancies in pay still persist. Women with disabilities and those from certain racial backgrounds may make even less when compared with their peers.
As a professional, you want to receive equal pay for equal work, and you have a right to demand fair compensation under federal and California employment laws. However, many companies intentionally try to deter their workers from discovering that they pay them less because of who they are rather than how they work.
Companies try to prevent conversations about wages
The way that many businesses avoid responsibility for discriminatory wage practices is simple. They adopt a policy that says their workers cannot discuss their wages with other people at the company or on social media.
Workers learn about this policy during their training as part of the onboarding process, or they may find a rule about it in the employee handbook when reviewing company practices. In either case, such rules have a chilling effect, making workers fear retaliation if they ask their co-workers a basic question about their income.
Even if your company has a policy in place saying you can’t talk about your wages, you can still ask your co-workers what they make to discover if your compensation is appropriate.
Federal law protects your right to discuss your pay
Federal employment laws guarantee the right of individuals to organize or unionize to protect their interests. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for employees to successfully unionize if they could not discuss the conditions of their employment.
Although your company may have a rule again talking about your wages, your right to learn if your wages are fair is more important than the company’s internal policy. Knowing your rights as a worker can give you the courage to talk about your wages with your co-workers.