Search form

District of Columbia Passes Legislation Allowing Employees to Discuss Wages

By Teresa Burke Wright and Daniel D. Schudroff
  • March 16, 2015

The District of Columbia has passed the Wage Transparency Act of 2014. The Act prohibits all private employers within the District from implementing workplace policies that forbid employees from discussing their wages with coworkers. The Act echoes President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13665, mandating that federal contractors allow employees to discuss their wages. After a period of congressional review, D.C.’s Wage Transparency Act took effect on March 11, 2015.

The Act prohibits employers from enforcing workplace policies that “[r]equire, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, disclosing, comparing, or otherwise discussing the employee’s wages or the wages of another employee.” It also prohibits employers from retaliating against any employee that has disclosed or is believed to have disclosed wages. Finally, employees are protected from retaliation for lodging a complaint, testifying, or participating in an investigation related to a violation of the Act.

The Wage Transparency Act not only requires that employees be allowed to discuss their own wages, it requires that employees be permitted to discuss the wages of other employees as well. There is nothing in the law that limits an employee’s right to discuss the wages of another employee, even when that information has been obtained improperly and without the permission of the employee whose wage information is being discussed.

The Act provides an exception for certain employees, however, such as human resources professionals, who have “regular access to information regarding the wages of other employees in the course of the employee’s work.” These employees will not be allowed to disclose wages under the Act and employers may implement policies prohibiting their use of wage information.

Although this Act will not create a new private cause of action, there are civil penalties for employers who violate the Act’s provisions: a civil fine of $1,000 for the first violation; $5,000 for the second violation; and $20,000 for each subsequent violation.

The Act would broaden worker protections already provided under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). Generally, the NLRA authorizes private-sector, non-supervisory employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” The NLRA has been interpreted consistently to prohibit workplace policies that bar employees from discussing their wages and working conditions. As a result, the freedom to discuss wages has long been a protected right for employees covered by the NLRA. However, D.C.’s Wage Transparency Act applies to all employees, regardless of supervisory status. Whether the new law is preempted in whole or in part by the NLRA will have to await judicial determination.

Please contact your Jackson Lewis attorneys if you have any questions about the Act and to discuss your specific organizational needs and compliance with the law.

©2015 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at

See AllRelated Articles You May Like

May 15, 2019

EPLI Trends, Sexual Harassment Claims, and Planning for 2019

May 15, 2019

As workplace laws continue to evolve, the potential risk exposure is increasing. Jackson Lewis prepared this trends overview to help assess the current workplace law landscape in the #MeToo era and the wave of agency charges, latest claims, and new laws.  Highlights include: Pay Equity Lawsuits: The Next Wave of Litigation... Read More

May 10, 2019

Commission-Only Inside Salespersons are Entitled to Overtime and Sunday Pay Under Massachusetts Law

May 10, 2019

Adhering to the “plain and ordinary” language of the state’s overtime statute and related regulations, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that inside sales employees paid on a 100% commission basis are additionally entitled to pay for overtime hours worked and premium pay for work on Sundays. Sullivan v. Sleepy’s LLC, 2019... Read More

May 7, 2019

California’s ‘ABC’ Test for Independent Contractor Analysis to be Applied Retroactively

May 7, 2019

California employers were dealt another setback in the responding to claims of misclassification of independent contractor status for violations of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order (“IWC Wage Orders”). Noting California’s “basic legal tradition” that “judicial decisions are given retroactive effect,” the U.S. Court of Appeals... Read More

Related Practices