Employee wages are always a hot button topic. As a practice, you may want your team to avoid the subject. But this is a delicate issue.
It’s a given that team members will talk and complain amongst themselves. This isn’t limited to the healthcare field, but it is a common phenomenon. It’s likely going on in your practice right now.
Knowing this tends to unsettle employers, especially when the topic comes to wages. The team might find out how much each makes, and go straight to your office demanding a raise. It’s much simpler for you and your bottom line to forbid the subject, right?
Not so fast. Employee wage discussions are a protected subject under the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA. Trying to restrict your team from discussing their working conditions, including pay, could land your practice in serious legal hot water.
Recommended Reading: The Fundamental Guide to Overtime Rates and Calculations for Healthcare Practices
Employee Rights Under The NLRA
The National Labor Relations Act protects most private-sector employees in the country. It does not cover government employees, agricultural employees, independent contractors, or a few other groups. So the chances are high your practice is subject to these regulations!
The NLRA allows employees to join together and improve their working conditions. This is the same law that protects employee rights to unionize or strike, but these rights exist with or without a union. Since the first step in this process is to discuss their issues amongst themselves, placing a ban on this subject steps into that dangerous legal territory.
So while you may not want to have a discussion with your employees about raising their wages, under the law this is considered concerted, protected activity.
You can read more about the NLRA on the National Labor Relations Board’s website.
So What Can A Practice Do?
It’s simple, but it’s true. The best way to keep your team happy about their wages is to pay them fairly. Wages should be decided based on set standards and each individual’s experience and skill. So long as you pay each team member a fair and equal wage, they will be less likely to complain about their checks.
Be sure to comply with all local laws regarding employee wages, and avoid underpaying for any reason. A well-paid team is a happy (and loyal) team.
Time To Update Your Handbook
Your practice should review and update the employee handbook on a regular basis. A good update to include, if it isn’t already there, is a section showing that you comply with the regulations set forth by the NLRA. The note can (and should) be short, like in the following paragraph:
“Nothing in this Employee Handbook is intended to limit any concerted activities by employees relating to their wages, hours or working conditions, or any other conduct protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)”
Visit this page for more advice on revising your employee handbook.
For the most part, your practice should have no fear of employees discussing their wages amongst themselves. Trying to stop your employees from discussing their wages can foster suspicion among your team, or risk a lawsuit against your practice. The best way to keep employee wage discussions to a minimum is to pay and treat them fairly.
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Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services