General Question

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Can your employer actually tell you not to discuss a write-up with coworkers?

Asked by Lonelyheart807 (1395points) March 17th, 2017

I mean, I know employers try to pull the same thing with telling their employees that they cannot discuss their salary (though, truthfully, who wants to do that, usually?), but legally they cannot enforce that either. So I was wondering about the above.

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30 Answers

cazzie's avatar

Legally, they can’t tell you to not discuss your salary. That’s a crazy ass bit of gas lighting that employers have done forever. Everyone should compare their salaries, especially if they are doing the same job. You can discuss what you want with your co workers. I don’t know what a ‘write-up’ is. What are you talking about?

elbanditoroso's avatar

Yes, they can tell you.

However, unless you have signed some sort of legal document that requires you to remain silent, you can do whatever you want. You need to check your employee handbook to see what the rules are and what you agreed to when you were hired.

But there are two questions I’m thinking about:

1) if you do talk to your co-workers, how will the company know?

2) what is the company afraid of?

3) what does ‘discuss a write-up’ mean? That could cover a whole lot of ground. The company has no authority to silence you talking to your friends.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@cazzie…a write-up is a corrective action, basically, or, if you prefer fancy terms like my company does, a performance improvement review.

@elbanditoroso…there is nothing in the employee handbook to address this. The company would only know if someone went back and told them, but I am choosy who I discuss such things with. I would wonder what the company is afraid of, and I suspect they are lying about one portion of it, and don’t want me corroborating the story with that person.

cazzie's avatar

Also, they can make you sign something but that doesn’t make it binding. Someone can not make you legally sign a paper that stops you from talking about something that is illegal. If their employment practices are illegal, they can make you sign something, but it won’t be binding in a court of law. If you are witness to an unlawful act, they can’t make you sign away your rights to speak about it.

Cruiser's avatar

Here in Illinois they have a statute that prohibits an employer from actions against an employee that does discuss compensation with or of another…

“It is unlawful for any employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any individual for inquiring about, disclosing, comparing, or otherwise discussing the employee’s wages or the wages of any other employee, or aiding or encouraging any person to exercise his or her rights under this Act.”

cazzie's avatar

If any company is worth their salt, they should encourage people to discuss ways of improving the company. Names shouldn’t be named, of course, to spare personal embarrassment, but if there was an error made, everyone could benefit from the discussion.

What about this ‘write up’ do you think the company doesn’t want discussed? Do you think that if you discuss your side of the story with the person involved that it may expose the company to a lawsuit? Or would it just undermine the decisions of a manager?

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@cazzie…I’m not sure what they don’t want me discussing, unless, as I said above, they are worried I might go back to the person (outside client) and ask them about the situation and find out that it wasn’t that big a deal to them as leadership played it up to be. I don’t know the outside person well enough to have that conversation, so I will leave it be. No doubt if they found out I had discussed it, they would write me up for insubordination, which is their go-to whenever someone doesn’t do something they told them to.

I am definitely being targeted at this point. The write-up was about something petty, as have been the last few interactions between my boss and I, interestingly, right after I had a meeting regarding accommodations needed for my disability. And…don’t worry…I am documenting everything that happens for a potential retaliation charge against them with the EOC.

This company is definitely not worth their salt…

cazzie's avatar

Oh, so it wasn’t a write up about a fellow employee? The write up was about you and something they claimed you did? I’m so sorry to hear this. Don’t worry. Your issues are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you you are being a ‘snowflake’. Are you part of the retail workers union? or from the sounds of things, you are part of a protected class, so you do have defenders.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@cazzie…yes. It did not involve a fellow employee.

filmfann's avatar

As many of you know, I used to work for The Worst Boss In The World. During the Company’s investigation of claims (which were true) that he raped a coworker, took pictures of it, showed the pictures to employees while on the clock, and threatened to kill anyone who told, we were told by the Company not to discuss it until the investigation was complete. We asked how and when we would be notified, and the Company investigator froze. We could tell we would never be alerted that we could now discuss it (we weren’t), so almost everyone ignored the restriction. The Company was powerless to stop us.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@filmfann…Worst Boss in the World? I think we should compare notes, as I’m pretty sure he came to work for my company. Seriously, my boss has not done anything as bad as all that (that I know of), but was apparently let go from his last job because of sexual harassment, and then had several charges of the same suit filed against him at my company within two months of being here. My company apparently thought that was okay, as he’s still here.

JLeslie's avatar

I was a manager for many years, and we never disciplined anyone for discussing a write up or their compensation with other work associates.

However, we did sometimes advise an associate not to discuss a write up to protect themselves. Advise does not mean threaten or coerce, I mean some associates talk too much for their own good. They are getting disciplined and should be either embarrassed or worried, and instead they are gossiping about themselves.

Sometimes a write up might be unfair, there are always bad bosses, but most bosses don’t to write ups unless warranted, and it’s a warning and advice in what needs to change.

Reviews and write-ups 9 times out of 10 probably should not be discussed with other employees, I don’t think it benefits the person in any way. If something seems unfair I say go above their head.

Salaries, mentioned above, are usually better not discussed also, although I do agree that discussing wages and salaries is a way to check employees are being compensated fairly.

Case in point: several months after I started working as a buyer/department manager in cosmetics an employee came to me about her wage being much lower than the rest of the staff. She was being paid $8.50 an hour, and the others made between $10–14.00. That’s a lot different, she was just as productive, and had been at the company for many years. She was right, she was being underpaid. I raised her 50ยข an hour within a month of her telling me, she lliterally teared up in my office when I told her, and then we gave her a larger than usual increase at review time. She knew she was underpaid because the staff had talked amongst themselves. I had the feeling she had complained before, and nothing was done.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@JLeslie….the only people who should embarrassed about this write-up are the people who gave it to me over something so petty. And I won’t go around discussing it with a bunch of people, but there are a few of us that keep each other informed about what nonsense our boss has gotten up to lately.

zenvelo's avatar

There are a few matters where you can be prohibited from discussing a disciplinary action with other employees (although what you have said does not seem to be one of them.)

You can be told to not discuss a situation where another employee has complained about illegal behavior by you or another employee, i.e., sexual harassment or hostile work environment. Discussion with another employee would be considered continued practice of prohibited behavior and would be grounds for termination.

jca's avatar

Since, apparently, this write up discussion would be had with someone who is outside the company (a client or contractor, I presume?) I would think they are within their rights to tell you not to contact or discuss it with the outside client or contractor. Potentially this could hurt their business. I would think a court might be on the company’s side.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

@jca…I was told not to discuss it with parents (not mine, of clients), outside contacts or colleagues. I would not discuss it with the first two groups as that would be unprofessional. I will feel free to discuss it with colleagues of my choosing.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Depends on the State. If you live in a Right to Work State, your employer can do anything they want, then fire you because they don’t like your face. Trump wants to make all 50 states Right to Work States. Good luck, people. This is what happens when a bunch of twinks who are afraid of their own shadows let a bunch of bullies take over.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

I guess at this point they could fire me at any point any way. I am not going to let me bully me or treat me like dirt regardless. I am looking for another job as it is.

jca's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus and @Lonelyheart807: Good points and this is one reason why it’s so helpful when people to unions. In a right to work state or a non-unionized environment, the employer will not say he’s getting rid of you for this but he’ll end up firing you for something else, unless you’re a perfect employee, which, nobody’s a perfect employee.

Cruiser's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I thought the same as you stated and live in Illinois at will right to work state and as I posted, Illinois has a statute that protects workers from termination for talking about compensation. My understanding is this would broach the boundaries of discrimination and why one here is protected from termination if they were found to have talked to another employee about pay even if the employer made it a condition of employment.

chyna's avatar

A girl in my old office was written up and she went from cubical to cubical telling each of us about the write up and wanted to share her side of the story. For the record, cubical spaces are small and close so she really didn’t need to go from cube to cube. We could all hear from a few cubes away. None of us needed to know what went on and wouldn’t have if not for her and most were in agreement that it was embarrassing for her to be doing that. I would keep it to myself.

Strauss's avatar

@Cruiser it’s probably a holdover from when unions were strong there.

cazzie's avatar

Employment rules in the US are so strange. The idea that you couldn’t talk about your wages with other employees or get fired is super strange. We constantly compare because the rules defining our pay rate isn’t subjective. It’s based on qualifications and years worked and if you have a dependent child (or children) at home. Because I’m in a health and human care field, I even got credit for the year I looked after my mother while she was going through chemo.

When I was working as a temp a few years ago, the workers went on an announced, controlled strike, but I didn’t break the strike and no one asked me to. The government was trying to lower pay for those who had a degree and a few other things. It’s stupid, because it is really difficult as it is to attract people into the work because it is really hard and stressful and low paying. So, they announced a two day strike about a month out, parents called and wrote their representatives and the Union lost some ground, but not all of it. We have a ridiculous right wing government in place right now, but we know they will be voted out in the next election, because they’ve been an embarrassment. As a result, two of my colleagues are getting their degrees but will see absolutely no pay increase for the effort their are putting in.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Your boss can ask you do do or not do anything he or she wants. Whether or not you comply depends on how much you value your job and your boss’s trust.

Legal or not legal is not always a factor in decision making.

Also, it would be utterly foolish to discuss salaries with coworkers. Can you imagine the resentment and discord that would cause in the work place?

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie Do you agree with paying people more money based on how many dependents they have? Or, paying people more because they have a more advanced degree? What if another person is doing the same job at the same level as someone who has no children and less education? They get paid less?

It happens here in America too in some places, especially in parts of the military, and local governments, but it seems very unAmerican to me when we are supposed to be merit based. I’m not trying to debate the topic, just curious what you think regarding paying people more even if they do the same job as the single, no dependents, no children, less education, person.

cazzie's avatar

@JLeslie They take certain things into account and they basically count up the points. They take degrees, years of work experience, years of related experience and then something because I have kids because I work in daycare and the experience of having your own children is obviously a plus, so, I see that you really misunderstood that. We aren’t paid more because we have dependants. We are paid because we have child rearing experience and it isn’t the first time we’d be changing a nappy.

I get paid more than the students that are going to college and coming in to work as substitutes. I am also in more demand because of my work experience, reliability and experience with children and the daycare routines, hygiene practices and food prep. On paper, me and the college kid are meant to be doing the same job, but, obviously, I’m more experienced and paid more and I am consistently given more responsibility in most situations. Same job in theory, but I’m more reliable, vastly more experienced, so I have a better contract and rate of pay.

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie Oh, where I misunderstood is I thought it was a thing in Norway across all industries. You just meant in your job having children and child rearing experience is a plus, and so you get paid more. That makes sense.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration sponsored a Federal Writers’ Project dedicated to chronicling the experience of slavery as remembered by former slaves. African-American men and women born into slavery were interviewed.

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936–1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.These interviews are archived by the Library of Congress and are now available here on the net through the Library of Congress and Project Gutenburg.

Anyone involved in American labor today would find these narratives extremely interesting reading and the treatment of those slave, although not nearly as brutal, is reminiscent of the same attitude of many employers toward their workers today, especially corporate employers.

The cubicle story above about by @chyna reminds me of a story where slaves were beaten for discussing unfair punishment. The restrictions on dating whomever you like, bathroom rights and privileges, invasions of privacy such as HR asking for FB passwords, restrictions on personal behaviour outside of work are all reminiscent of the master’s control over the life and mind of the slave.

You people need to stand up to these entities or you will lose what little control you have over the other 120 hours per week that your employer is supposed to not have anything to do with.

Read the Narratives. It’s an eye opener.

jca's avatar

@Lonelyheart807: Are you a member of a union?

Lonelyheart807's avatar

No ,@jca...we do not have a union.

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