Under the National Labor Relations Act, a federal law that already governs much of the New York State workforce, an employer may not “hush up” its employees and prohibit their discussing compensation or, for that matter, any of their working conditions. In other words, the NLRA makes it unlawful to prohibit employees from engaging in water-cooler talk about who gets paid more and who doesn’t like the boss this week.
Effective January 19, 2016, an amendment to New York Labor Law section 194 is New York State’s nod of approval to discuss wages freely. It is not expected that this amendment will change the landscape markedly, since the federal mandate already exists. Notably, just like the new State law, the federal law governs both unionized and non-union workplaces. Many employers are under the mistaken impression that the NLRA governs only union shops, but that’s not the case.