As part of the Women’s Economic Security Act, the Minnesota legislature enacted a law that protects the ability of employees to discuss their wages with others.  See H.F. 2536.  This new law will be codified at Minn. Stat. § 181.172.  Here’s what employers need to know about the law:

What Is Prohibited?  The law states that an employer shall not:

  1. Require nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages as a condition of employment;
  2. Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document which purports to deny an employee the right to disclose the employee’s wages; or
  3. Take any adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing the employee’s own wages or discussing another employee’s wages which have been disclosed voluntarily.

The law also states that an employer may not retaliate against an employee for asserting rights or remedies protected by the new wage disclosure protections law.

Isn’t That Already Illegal?  Yes.  The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) has long been interpreted to make it an unfair labor practice for employers to restrict an employee’s ability to disclose his or her wages as part of “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection” or to punish an employee for doing so.  See 29 U.S.C. § 157.

Are There Any Exceptions?  Yes.  The law clarifies that it does not:

  1. Create an obligation on any employer or employee to disclose wages;
  2. Permit an employee, without the written consent of the employer, to disclose proprietary information, trade secret information, or information that is otherwise subject to a legal privilege or protected by law;
  3. Diminish any existing rights under the National Labor Relations Act under United States Code, title 29; or
  4. Permit the employee to disclose wage information of other employees to a competitor of their employer.

Do Employers Need To Update Their Handbooks?  Yes, the new law explicitly says that “[a]n employer that provides an employee handbook to its employees must include in the handbook notice of employee rights and remedies under this section.”

Takeaway:  Minnesota’s new wage disclosure protections law largely replicates legal protections that already exist under the NLRA.  However, employers in Minnesota will need to update their employee handbooks to advise employees of the rights and remedies of the new law.