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Board finds Houston engineering firm unlawfully fired employee for discussing salaries with coworkers

The National Labor Relations Board has found that a Texas engineering firm unlawfully fired an employee for discussing salary information with co-workers, and ordered the company to offer reinstatement and to pay back wages for the time out of work.

Under the Board Order, which issued February 8, Houston-based Jones & Carter, Inc. also must rescind its policy of forbidding employee discussion of salaries. The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of workers to discuss their terms and conditions of employment, including wages.

In the absence of exceptions, the Board adopted the November 26 decision of Administrative Law Judge Margaret G. Brakebusch. During trial, company officials said the employee – a training coordinator - was fired for “harassing” other workers. But the judge noted that the same company officials told state unemployment investigators a different story, including that the employee was fired for discussing salaries with other workers, and that sharing such information was a “pet peeve” of the company.

As a result of the Board action, Jones & Carter offered the employee reinstatement to her former position, which she declined.  The employer agreed to make the former employee whole by paying her backpay, 401(k) contributions, medical expenses and interest in the total amount of $107,000, to revise its policy to delete the prohibition on employees of discussing their salaries, and to post a Board Notice describing these actions.

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