Terminated for Discussing Pay in the Workplace – What Happens Next?

Work culture in the United States puts a heavy emphasis on working hard for good pay, but part of that culture discourages workers from discussing pay. It’s considered rude in most conversations, but the truth is, it can let some employees know they are not being paid the same as others for the same work. Employers prefer that this information not get shared among staff members, but is it illegal to discuss pay in the workplace?

The short answer is no. While companies may couch it in terms of “harassing” fellow employees or as against company policy, the law says being terminated for discussing salary in the workplace is illegal. This includes social media interactions, such as on Reddit, where a user named Erick posted a photo of a sign telling employees they would be fired for talking about their salaries or even listening to those conversations.

Discussing Pay in the Workplace

Originally passed in 1935 to spell out the rights of workers to organize and form unions, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act) protects employees who discuss what they are paid with one another at their workplace. Because talking about salary can be one of the first steps for organizing, many non-unionized businesses discourage it. However, nearly all companies fall under the Act’s jurisdiction since it has low thresholds to ensure the largest number of employees are covered.

Retailers with a gross annual income of $500,000 or more (or $100,000+ for shopping centers and office buildings) must abide by the Act. Non-retailers with sales over $50,000 a year are also covered. Only employees of governments (federal, state, and local), agricultural harvest and preparation companies, or those subject to the Railway Labor Act do not fall under the NLRA jurisdiction. However, these individuals have protection under state public employee labor boards.

The Act covers face-to-face discussions, written communication, and social media, although many companies have policies about using their equipment for these talks. Conversations about pay are allowed to happen when employees are not at work, on a break, or at work if workers can have other discussions unrelated to work. Whether a union is present or not, everyone can talk about pay in the workplace.

Fired by an Employer – What to Do Next

While the gym where Erick worked is small, it is qualified for protection under the NLRA. Employees can discuss how much they make, ask the owner about pay, ask for help from an outside union, and contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for guidance. If the gym owner wrongfully terminates anyone for having these conversations, Erick and the other employees have options for what to do next.

Contact the NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board protects employees and enforces the law set forth by the NLRA. In the event of a termination for discussing salary, the employee can file a charge against the company by contacting a regional Information Office within six months of the firing. 

File for Unemployment

Being terminated means the employee is eligible for unemployment insurance. Filing for this coverage can pay bills while the worker seeks help from the NLRB and an employment attorney to pursue a claim against their former company. While the US Department of Labor oversees it, unemployment insurance is administered by state governments.

Hire an Employment Attorney

Understanding the complexities of a possibly illegal termination requires the help of an experienced employment lawyer. While the NLRB can assist in investigating the employer, discussing the specific circumstances with someone who knows how the laws apply is critical. This may not be the first time the company has fired someone, and previous cases can provide support for other claims.

Considering the company is likely to employ lawyers of their own to fight a wrongful termination claim, having a trusted legal advisor can ensure the employee’s rights are protected.

When Not to Discuss Salary at Work

Despite protections, there are times when talking about wages and benefits at work is ill-advised. An employer could have good cause for termination if an employee obtained and discussed details by accessing files they weren’t authorized to view. The same is true if the worker had the authority to access a coworker’s files but shared them with anyone other than the coworker or their supervisors as needed. 

As mentioned earlier, government employees do not have coverage under the NLRA. If they have access to protected information, discussing any details about the workplace can present a security risk. However, many states have public employee relations boards or acts, such as the one in California, that protect government workers. The acts work just like the NLRA to cover the unionization efforts of individuals such as school teachers, public works employees, and rail workers.

Unless everyone in the conversation has the full context, discussing salary could result in an employee misunderstanding why their pay is different. Years of work experience, education, length of time at the company, and other factors could influence why one person is paid more than another. Feelings can be hurt, and work relationships strained if someone takes it personally that they earn less without knowing the full story.

Employer Retaliation

Although it is illegal, some companies or supervisors may retaliate against workers who discuss salary. In July 2022, Lexi Larson posted a video about a new job to her TikTok account, celebrating her salary of $90,000. She continued to share videos about her pay, leading her employer to fire her. Their claim was that “she may share something private” on her account. 

In addition to firing a worker, companies may engage in more subtle negative actions, such as demotions, increased disciplinary discussions, or reductions in salary. A worker may find they are inexplicably moved to a less desirable shift or one that conflicts with their non-work needs. This could occur even if the employer previously agreed to the hours. 

Other retaliatory acts could include a supervisor reassigning high-profile projects to others or moving the employee to an objectionable work location. Reducing hours and associated pay can result in a “quiet firing” environment, making work so difficult that the employee quits independently. In any of these situations, workers can benefit from a discussion with an experienced employment lawyer in their area. 

The Top 10 Reasons People Get Fired

With some notable exceptions, California is an at-will employment state. What this means is that your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason. Obviously, there are some very common reasons for termination of employment, including the top ten reasons listed below.

1. Poor Work Performance

Poor work performance is the most commonly cited reason for an employee’s termination, and is a catch-all term that refers to a number of issues, including failure to do the job properly or adequately even after undergoing the standard training period for new employees, failing to meet quotas, requiring constant supervision, or requiring that the work be redone.

2. Misconduct

Certain types of misconduct not only will result in being fired from your job, but can also put you at risk of facing legal consequences, as well. Behaviors that qualify as employee misconduct include physical or sexual harassment of co-workers or customers, bullying, fraud, and neglect. More than 20 percent of employees know or have worked with someone who has been fired for wasting time or disrupting other employees at the office.

3. Chronic Lateness/ Absence

If you are regularly half an hour late for work or you take a lot of time off, it places a burden on your employer and co-workers, as they are tasked with picking up the slack caused by your absence in order to prevent a loss of productivity. Around 22 percent of U.S. employers have fired an employee for providing a fake excuse when calling in sick, and 41 percent have fired an employee for showing up late.

4. Company Policy Violations

Companies do not simply create policies for their own benefit. Many times, the company’s policies are required through governmental and industry regulations and violations of those policies will leave your employer with little choice but to take verbal or written disciplinary action or to terminate your employment. Other company policies, such as the dress code, the company’s view on romantic relationships between co-workers, and the company’s view on social media use are important guidelines for you to read carefully upon accepting the job to ensure that you are able to uphold those policies.

5. Drug or Alcohol Use at Work

In spite of the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in California, the drug still remains illegal at the federal level and many employers participate in the Federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which provides a number of benefits for the employer and results in mandated drug testing when an employee is hired, randomly throughout employment, and if the employee suffers an on-the-job injury. Approximately 70 percent of the 14.8 million individuals who abuse drugs are employed. The use of drugs and alcohol during work results in lost productivity, an increased risk of injury, and will generally cost you your job.

6. Personal Use of Company Property

 Usually, a company will allow an employee a single or limited use of a copier in order to copy a personal document. However, frequent personal use of copiers, office supplies, printers, and laptops for your personal use — or, worse, your “side gig” — will likely be viewed as theft and can result in the loss of your employment.

7. Theft or Property Damage

Taking anything — even pens or paper — from your company for personal use is not only a fire-able offense, but it can also result in legal troubles for you, as well. Additionally, as an employee, you are expected to treat company property with care. Being careless with your work laptop, the copy machine, and other equipment can also jeopardize your employment.

8. Falsifying Company Records

Providing false information on company records not only places your employment at risk, but could also create risk for the entire company, particularly if the records are financial in nature or pertain to industry regulations. Worse, falsifying information can — in some industries and depending on the nature of the document — place your coworkers and customers at risk of financial loss, injury, or even death.

9. Inappropriate Use of Social Media

Social media has been both extraordinarily beneficial in the workplace for its ability to connect people with the products and services they need, as well as extraordinarily harmful in terms of the legal risk that inappropriate social media use on-the-job can result in as well as the loss of productivity created by employees who are spending time scrolling when they should be working. Around one-third of U.S. employers have disciplined an employee for violating the company’s social media policy, and 17 percent have fired an employee for something they posted on social media.

10. Insubordination

While most employers look for employees who are able to think for themselves and offer ideas or insights as to how to improve the workplace, there tends to be a firm line drawn when it comes to insubordinate actions, such as repeatedly or disrespectfully arguing with the manager or other co-workers, outright refusing to obey orders from a manager, or otherwise exhibiting behaviors that obstruct the normal flow of business. There is a notable exception to insubordination, and that is when an employee refuses an order from a manager that would result in a violation of the law or of public policy. Generally, in these circumstances, federal whistleblower laws protect the employee from termination.

Were You Wrongfully Terminated?

As stated, there are exclusions from the at-will employment rule in California.  Some of those exclusions include:

  • Termination of an employee who is under written or employed contract and has met the provisions of that contract.
  • Employees who belong to a union and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that lays out the standard of termination.
  • Employees whose employers have said or done things that overcome the presumption of at will, such as a progressive discipline policy.

If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated or you have been falsely accused of any of the behaviors listed above, our experienced employment attorney can explain your legal options. Contact Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation, online or by calling 916-446-2000 to discuss your case.

When to Accept a Wrongful Termination Settlement

Losing your job is a traumatic experience, which brings with it financial and emotional uncertainty. You may feel angry, embarrassed and shocked that you have been fired, especially if you believe you were fired unfairly. Being terminated from your position is painful enough, but if you feel that you were fired for an illegal reason, you may be wondering if you have a case for wrongful termination.

What is Wrongful Termination

“Wrongful termination” is clearly defined by the law and certain conditions must be met in order to bring a claim in court.  It is important to note that being fired unfairly does not necessarily constitute a legitimate legal claim for wrongful termination. In order to bring a claim against your former employer for wrongful termination, you must have been fired for an illegal reason such as the following:

Termination due to discrimination or harassment based on a protected characteristic

These characteristics include ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, genetic information, etc.

Violation of Public Policy

Many states allow wrongful termination claims when an employee has been fired for voting, participating in jury duty, filing a worker’s compensation claim, or requiring an employee to lie under oath or break the law.

Written Employment Contracts

These legally binding contracts are the basis for a wrongful termination suit if they have been violated by the employer.

Covenant of Good Faith

If an employer terminates an employee seemingly to avoid paying out a pension, that may be a basis for a wrongful termination claim. For example, if an employee has worked at the same company for 30 years and is terminated a few days before their retirement, this termination may be a violation of the good faith of the relationship between the employee and the employer.

Implied Contract of Employment

If an employer has policies in place that would reasonably lead an employee to believe that their employer would not fire them “at-will” but rather would only fire them for cause, this may constitute an implied contract of employment. A typical example of an implied contract wrongful termination claim is a termination that directly violates something from an employee handbook, which articulates an employee’s rights and duties. If an employee is fulfilling their duties and is fired without cause, they may potentially have a claim for wrongful termination.

Valuing a Wrongful Termination Settlement

Many factors are involved in valuation of a wrongful termination claim. The total value of damages may include lost wages, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages, attorney and court fees, front pay (the amount of money you would have made until finding a new job), and compensatory damages.

Additionally, it is important to note that there is a clear connection between damages and compensation. If you are able to quickly find a new job for a greater salary, you may have a difficult time obtaining compensation for your claim from a court of law.

When Should I Accept a Wrongful Termination Settlement in California?

You should only accept a settlement from your employer of your wrongful termination claim if the offer is a fair reflection of the damages you suffered as a result of their actions.

Individuals who are represented by an attorney enter into settlements that are 150 percent higher on average than those who pursue wrongful termination claims on their own. You should not agree to a settlement with your employer until you consult with an experienced employment attorney to review their offer.

Have an Experienced Advocate on Your Side

Unfortunately, wrongful terminations occur quite commonly. You typically only have 180 days to act after you have been wrongfully terminated, so you should consult an attorney right away.

Wrongful termination cases can be challenging and difficult to prove. The team at Perkins Asbill can step in quickly to protect your rights against wrongful termination and help you to negotiate a fair settlement agreement. Contact our office in Sacramento at (916) 520-1417 today to schedule a consultation.


You probably never go into a shift at work thinking that it is going to be your last unless you’ve turned in your notice that you’re leaving the job. For some people, the unexpected loss of a job happens while they are just trying to get their work done. There are protections for workers who are wrongfully terminated, but this doesn’t apply to all cases.

California is an at-will employment state so employers technically don’t need a reason to fire you. There are some specific situations in which they can’t fire you. If you have participated in a protected activity, the employer can’t use termination as a retaliatory measure. Here are some of these activities:

  • Working with investigators: You can’t be terminated for cooperating with an investigation into potentially illegal activities at the workplace.
  • Filing a complaint: Your employer can’t fire you because you file a complaint with the authorities for unlawful activities at the company, including those related to sexual harassment or safety violations.
  • Making a complaint: You can’t be let go because you make a complaint to human resources about harassment or discrimination on the job.

If you need to make a claim for wrongful termination based on a protected activity, you might find that proving your case is challenging. You must show that you were a participant in something that is protected. You need to show that your employer is retaliating against you for those actions.

It is important that you continue to do your job duties to the best of your abilities while you are engaged in these activities. Your employment record might come into the picture if you need to take legal action. You don’t need negative marks in it since this might give the employer a lawful basis for the termination.


California is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can pretty much fire you for any reason or no reason at all. There are some exceptions to this, as employers can’t terminate you for a protected reason, even in an at-will state.

One factor that can’t lead to termination is your filing a valid workers’ compensation claim. In these cases, you can’t be fired because of the impacts of the injury or because you filed a report outlining some safety defect within the company.

It can be difficult to tie the firing to the fact that you filed a workers’ compensation claim. One possible way to approach this is to show that you were doing your job satisfactorily by citing favorable employee evaluations.

There are some reasons for termination after you file your claim that don’t have anything to do with the injury. The company closing or downsizing its employees might mean that your position is no longer necessary. In these cases, the employer could let you go even if you do have a valid workers’ compensation claim in the works.

Ultimately, you need to follow your medical care plan. Try to return to work when it is safe for you to do so. This decision has to be between you and your doctor. Staying off work too long when it isn’t necessary and coming back sooner than you should can cause issues with your job. If you are returning to work with limitations, make sure those are clearly conveyed to your boss so that he or she knows what to expect.


While California is an at will employment state, there are specific limitations in place for what employers are allowed to do when it comes to terminating an employee. For example, they aren’t allowed to fire an employee as a retaliatory measure. There are some specific points that employees should remember about retaliatory dismissal.

First, the dismissal can’t be because of lax performance at work. You have to keep up the same work ethic and meet the same standards after you file complaints about sexual harassment or any other unethical behavior. There aren’t any protections from termination based on substandard work, even if the termination comes after you file a complaint about something.

Second, you need to make sure that you react appropriately. If you are terminated, you should remain respectful and calm. This might prove to be difficult, but it might help your case out if you opt to take legal action about the matter.

Third, you need to keep clear documentation of what happened. Write out what happened as soon as possible so that you can refer back to that note if you need to. Be sure to include the information about who terminated you and what reason they give you. This might prove to be important later.

It can be difficult to think about going up against your former employer in court, but this one thing that could help you get compensation for the unethical and illegal termination that you had to deal with. It might not get you an influx of money right away, but it might prove useful in the future if your case is successful in court.


While employers have a right to end your employment without having to give you a reason, there are some reasons why they can’t let you go. These are reasons that are forbidden by law. You can choose to take legal action if you are terminated for one of these reasons.

You can’t be fired for any form of discrimination. This means due to your gender, sexual preference, age, disability status, marital status, race or religion. All of these are protected statuses, which means that employers can’t consider these for any type of job-related actions, including promotions and demotions.

Another reason why you can’t be terminated is because you refuse to take a lie detector test. This is a federal protection that is covered under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, so don’t think that you have to take the test if you don’t want to.

Employers can’t fire you because you filed valid complaints about the company or a company representative. The key here is that the complaints have to be valid and true. This includes ones made based on employment law, discrimination, or harassment. It doesn’t matter if you reported sexual harassment by a supervisor or an incident of compromised safety standard that regulatory agencies should have known about.

When it comes to retaliatory terminations, you might need to go back a ways in your employment record to find out if the termination was warranted. One thing to look for is the history of your evaluations. If these are favorable and the termination occurred after you filed a complaint, it might be retaliation.

Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful Termination Laws: Illegal Reasons,” accessed May 11, 2018


Being fired from work, especially if it is unexpected, can be a shock. You might be tempted to fly off the handle and act out in a negative manner. This isn’t usually a good idea, so you have to make sure that you are keeping your wits about you if you are let go.

One of the first things to do if you are fired is to find out why. Make sure that you listen carefully to the reasoning. If you think there is something amiss and you were fired for an illegal reason, such as for reporting discriminatory behavior, you might be able to take legal action.

Another thing to find out is what type of severance, if any, you are entitled to. Oftentimes, employees who have a contract will have a clause for severance pay. Knowing what you are entitled to and what you are going to do to assert your rights is imperative.

Try not to be negative when you are let go. Even if you are the victim of wrongful termination, badmouthing your former employer isn’t going to be helpful at all. Instead, take a look at what positive skills you learned on the job and use that to your advantage when you are looking for a new job. You can always explore your options for fighting wrongful termination but speaking negatively of the former employer might hinder your chances at finding another job.

You should make sure that you don’t let the employer get away with wrongful termination in any form. While California is an at-will employment state, employers can’t use termination in a discriminatory or retaliatory manner.

Source: The Balance, “You’re Fired! How to Handle Getting Fired,” Alison Doyle, accessed Feb. 16, 2018


There really isn’t ever a good time to be let go from a job, but when you think the termination is due to illegal grounds, you might need to take a long look at what is truly going on. California is an at-will employment state. While this means that employers can let you go at any time, there are some limitations for the reasons they can terminate you.

Employers can’t fire you because of any protected status. These include your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and similar factors. They can’t let you go because you file a complaint about harassment, a hostile work environment, or discrimination. They can’t terminate your employment because you filed a report about illegal activities in the workplace.

When you are considering the reason for the termination, you might have to go back and look at performance evaluations to see if there was any mention of possible issues in those. If your evaluations were pristine prior to the termination, you might be able to prove your case a little easier.

We understand that emotions usually run high under these circumstance of employment separation. While you are going through this situation, remember that you don’t want to do anything that might look bad on you later. It can be hard to keep yourself in check when you are staring the lack of income in the face, but try to breathe deeply and focus on what you need to do.

If you do think that you were wrongfully terminated, you might be able to take legal action regarding the termination. We can take a look at your case and help you to determine what options you have.


Most people who work don’t head in everyday just because they enjoy the work. Almost everyone works because they need to earn a paycheck to support themselves. This is one thing that some employers count on. They think that the need for a job will keep workers hushed about the things that go on at a company.

We know that some employees are forced to decide between speaking up about illegal activities and keeping their paycheck. This isn’t a position that any workers should be in. When this does happen and you make the decision to speak up, you might notice that the dynamics at the workplace change.

Some employers or their agents decide to punish you for speaking up. This is known as retaliation. Employers can’t legally take retaliatory actions against employees who made a factual complaint about things within the company. If you think that your employer is retaliating against you, we can help you to address the issue.

In some cases, an employer might just terminate your employment because you made the complaint. Doing this is illegal, so many employers will try to cite other reasons for the termination. We can help you to sort through the situation and unearth the real reason for the termination.

Wrongful termination is something that shouldn’t be tolerated. Instead, you should take swift action to let the employer know that you aren’t going to stand for any type of illegal action at the company. Taking this stance might not be easy but it might be the key to getting the conditions in the workplace improved. It might also send the message that you know your rights.