Labor law question: Are non-disclosure clauses on salary permissible?

Have a casual chat with your colleagues about your salary? If you want to find out how he or she earns compared to the rest of the team, it's sometimes difficult.

Labor law question: Are non-disclosure clauses on salary permissible?

Have a casual chat with your colleagues about your salary? If you want to find out how he or she earns compared to the rest of the team, it's sometimes difficult. Some employers forbid that. Rightly so?

When it comes to fair payment, transparent handling of salaries is also important. In some employment contracts, however, there are clauses that prohibit employees from talking about this. Are such rules allowed?

Generally speaking: no. "Simply because there is usually no legitimate employer interest in this," says Johannes Schipp, specialist lawyer for labor law in Gütersloh.

He refers to the case law of the state labor court in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, according to which a clause that prohibits employees from talking about their salary constitutes an unreasonable disadvantage. Employees are being deprived of the opportunity to talk to others about whether they are being paid appropriately.

Under certain circumstances, the inclusion of such a clause in the employment contract could even be interpreted as a violation of a company's compliance rules.

The question remains: are there any exceptions to this rule? For example, when competitors receive information that is essential for poaching employees? According to Schipp, a very generally worded clause that stipulates absolute secrecy about salary goes too far in any case.

The employer must differentiate here and specify, for example, that the information may not be passed on to employees of other companies. However, the specialist lawyer emphasizes: "In extreme situations you will be able to think about it, but these are really exceptions."

Anyone who now has a general clause in the employment contract that stipulates non-disclosure about salary can assume that it is not effective. "An infringement of this cannot be punished," says Schipp. A warning that is issued because of a violation is also ineffective. Employees can go to court to have it removed from the personnel file.

(This article was first published on Monday, September 12, 2022.)

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