“You’re Making How Much?!”: The Importance of Salary Transparency in the Social Media Era
In July, we learned Denver native Lexi Larson was fired after her employers found videos on her TikTok account in which she discussed her salary (and how she was able to land a job that paid $20,000 more than her last position). Ms. Larson was fired shortly after her employer’s discovery for security concerns – but only after they admitted to her that she had not violated any company policies.
While we as a nation have made progress on equal pay for women for equal work, there is still much to be done. Going into 2022, white women still earned 82 cents for every $1 earned by men, with an even wider gap between minority women and white men. There are many arguments put forward to explain the gender wage gap – some even blaming a woman’s deficiencies in negotiating for the wage differential. But how can a woman properly negotiate her salary if she is not aware of what similarly-situated others are being paid? The National Labor Relations Act (which covers most employees in the private sector except government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and supervisors (with limited exceptions), protects the rights of most employees to discuss their salary with others. But despite the federal protection, it is still taboo to discuss one’s salary– especially while in the workplace. More than ever before, employees are connecting with each other on social media and younger generations are learning about business, business development, and finance from videos on TikTok and Instagram instead of their college professors. The protections of the NLRA ring shallow if they do not protect an employee’s ability to discuss his/her salary in forums that will be useful for other workers.
Where do we go from here? In order to make employers more accountable and employees better able to advocate for themselves, there must be more transparency as to salary and wages. Furthermore, as an employer, it is important to have clear anti-discrimination policies and social media policies that protect your company’s trade secrets and confidential information. Equally important, an employer should enforce each and every violation of policy in the same manner and with similar consequences. As an employee, it is important to keep abreast of your company’s policies and procedures and to be knowledgeable about your federally (and state) protected rights.
Until there is more transparency in our wage system, we will never be able to make true progress toward pay equity.