There are many valid reasons why Texas employers prefer their employees not discussing their salaries or wages with each other. Talking about these things increases the chance of disputes.
No, you can’t
However, federal law prohibits employers from forbidding their employees from discussing wage and salary information. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Act states that all employees have a right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other. This includes wages.
As a Texas employer, while you may not forbid your employees from talking about their pay with each other, you can set certain limitations on these conversations.
Here is what you can do
You can prohibit these conversations from taking place while employees are supposed to be working and allow them only on designated break or lunch hours, or outside of work.
If you implement a rule like this, be careful that you are not allowing other types of non-work conversations to take place during work hours but disallowing only discussions about pay. This could make it appear as though you are still putting a limit on these types of conversations, and thus violating federal law.
Your employees should be aware that although they can talk about pay, they can only talk about their own pay, or someone else’s pay if they learned that information through regular conversation. For example, they should not talk about someone else’s pay if they learned the information through secretly going through confidential documents.
Tips to promote a healthy work environment
The best way to handle this type of situation is to not make your employees feel like they need to talk about who gets paid what. Emphasize that your pay is competitive with other companies in the same field and that you care about your employees’ well-being.
Encourage your employees to come talk to you if they have concerns. This will promote a culture of openness and not secrecy.
Addressing these kinds of topics is tricky. It is always best to have professional advice on the best way to draft language in company handbooks or materials to avoid potential legal liability.