“How much do you make?” It’s an awkward question—but finding out the answer from your co-workers may reveal pay discrepancies that you may not have otherwise known about.
Discussing salaries can allow employees to discover pay differences that they think are unreasonable or stemming from factors such as racial or gender bias. This in turn allows them to negotiate better, fairer salaries.
There are more benefits to this than just higher wages, Fast Company notes.
“Workers who are paid less than the market rate for their jobs were more satisfied if their employer was transparent about their pay, according to PayScale,” writes author Stephanie Vozza. “And if someone sat down and openly discussed the reason behind the compensation, their job satisfaction rose from 40% to 82%.”
The article goes on to note that studies have indicated pay transparency can lead to an increase in productivity and a greater desire among workers to rise higher in the company.
Furthermore, it prevents employees from suddenly learning that they are woefully underpaid, as TikToker Andrew (@andrewthevirgo) learned in a now-viral video.
“When a company tells you not to discuss your pay with anybody, they’re trying to screw you over,” Andrew says in a video with over 2.7 million views.
@andrewthevirgo : i learned its not illegal to talk to discuss pay… #storytime #funny #work #jobs #life #boss #comedy #gay #virl #lgbt #lgbtq #bossup #quit ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show
According to Andrew, he had applied for a full-time job as a case manager for social work. This is a job that he had done previously for several years.
Once he got the job, the company told him his pay would be $18 per hour. This number felt low to Andrew as his previous job paid him $16 an hour, but he opted to take the job anyway as the company claimed they could not pay him a higher wage. They also told him not to discuss his salary.
After spending some time on the job, Andrew realized that the job required more work than initially expected—an amount of work that exceeded his pay.
Andrew knew something wasn’t right. In an effort to interrogate this hunch, he asked his co-workers why they didn’t apply for his role. They told him that his role required more work and that they were making $19 per hour in their current positions.
Hearing this, Andrew confronted his supervisor and his supervisor’s boss. They informed him that he had the skills needed for the role, but the previous holder of the position was being paid more than they could currently afford. They also said they could not pay him any more than $18 an hour.
The TikToker says he quit the job on the spot.
As many commenters noted, it is illegal for employers to bar employees from discussing wages.
“Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act), employees have the right to communicate with other employees at their workplace about their wages,” reads the NLRB website. “You may have discussions about wages when not at work, when you are on break, and even during work if employees are permitted to have other non-work conversations. You have these rights whether or not you are represented by a union.”
In the comments section, several users detailed their discoveries after deciding to share their wages.
“At my last position I was making 16$ [an] hour with a 4 year degree. Had to bag for 21$, found out my coworker was making 27$,” wrote a commenter.
“Found out im making 37hr and my coworker making 44hr,” added another.
“I worked at a [starbucks] inside target, I had the most real [barista] experience and highest education,” recalled a third. “i asked one day and found out all the MEN got more than me, even new highers! I quit on the spot but I wish I would have brought up a discrimination case.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Andrew via email.