Woman Fired for Asking About Coworker's Salary, So She Did This!

Source: JobTube Team, Josh B.

In the workplace, salary and bonus are sensitive topics of discussion. Many companies have written"no private exchange of wages and bonuses" into contracts and even companies have asked employees to sign income confidentiality agreements, making it clear that violators will be dismissed.

However, even if it is expressly stipulated by the employer, is it really legal to keep salary confidential?


Ms. He worked in sales at a trading company. When she knew that salaries and promotions of other eight colleagues who had the same position as hers, and similar achievements were much higher than her own, she asked for a payment raise from her manager, on the grounds of unfairness.

In turn, when her supervisor asked her how she got acquainted with the information about other colleagues salary, Ms. He replied truthfully. A few days later, the company dismissed her on the grounds that she had seriously violated the rules and regulations of the income confidentiality agreement.

Ms. He refused to accept her termination and brought a lawsuit to the court.

The court found there was no provision in the labor law, regarding disclosure of an employee's salary. Therefore, keeping an employee's salary amount confidential is in violation of the labor contract law. As a result, the court decided that the company's actions constituted an illegal termination, and ordered the company to pay compensation to her.

Legal Interpretation

Yang, a lawyer in Beijing, agreed. In his opinion, under the circumstance that an employer's rules and regulations provide the confidentiality of remuneration, it is improper for Ms. He to inquire about the salary of other colleagues, but it is not advisable for the company to terminate her for doing so.

According to the labor law, the distribution of wages must follow the principle of distribution according to the work and hence, a company must implement equal pay for equal work. According to Yang, "open income is the premise of equal pay for equal work".

"At present, China's law does not explicitly stipulate that remuneration must be kept confidential, nor does it restrict employers to implement the system of remuneration confidentiality." Yang believes that, in the absence of explicit provisions in the law, as long as two sides reach an agreement and procedures are legal and effective in the formulation process, the salary confidentiality clause should be respected and protected by the law.

However, according to the employment practice, some enterprises abuse the right of salary confidentiality system to control workers unreasonably. According to Yang, it, to some extent, conflicts with the principle of equal pay for equal work mentioned in the labor law.

Chen, a lawyer from another law firm in Beijing, believes that this is not fair for some junior and conventional posts or workers of the same type of work, therefore the rights and interests of equal pay for equal work are difficult to realize.

"There is no mandatory requirement for the publicity of wages by law, but workers have the right to know their own wages. Therefore, no matter whether an enterprise publicizes the wages of workers or not, a clear and proper wage payment system should be made available in order to prevent further conflicts."