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Combating Punitive Pay Secrecy Policies

Nearly fifty years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, a woman working full time
year-round is paid just 78 cents on the dollar compared to her male counterpart. All too often, wage disparities go undetected because employers maintain policies that punish employees who voluntarily share salary information with their coworkers. When employees fear retaliation, there is a serious “chilling effect” on any conversations about wages. Moreover, the federal law that protects some employees from such retaliation is full of loopholes that have allowed the unfortunate practice of penalizing employees who discuss their wages to flourish. As a result, workers can be paid unfair wages for years prior to discovering pay disparities, if they discover them at all. Even if they do discover disparities, they may feel powerless to address them because they fear retaliation for violating the pay secrecy policy. Twelve states now have explicit protections for workers who talk about their pay. And the Department of Labor released a new rule that bans employers who have contact with the federal government from maintaining punitive pay secrecy policies.