Can an Employer Prevent an Employee from Discussing Wages

Can an Employer Prevent an Employee from Discussing Wages?

At some point in their employment, many employees have felt that they should not be discussing what they earn from their jobs. Many people may feel that it’s an unspoken rule or a courtesy to their employers not to speak about topics that feel ‘taboo’.


What many employees may not know is that employers cannot prevent employees from discussing their wages and earnings. There are several laws in Ontario that protect the abilities of employees regarding their discussions on their rates of pay. Whether employers are aware of their obligations or not, employees still have the right to benefit from the laws. Even if there is a company policy that says otherwise.


This article will discuss the abilities of employees surrounding discussing and earning wages, the obligations of employers, and what you can do if you believe that your workplace is not following the law.


What Abilities do Employees Have Around Wages?


Under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), Ontario workers have some very important abilities when it comes to wages. 


Part XII of the ESA, Equal Pay for Equal Work says that employees working at the same level should have the same rate of pay, regardless of sex. The only items that a difference in rate of pay can be based on are seniority, a merit system, a system that rewards earnings according to quantity or quality of production, or factors other than sex. 


Section 74(1) of the ESA gives employees the right not to be intimidated, dismissed (fired), or otherwise penalized for discussing their rate or pay or determining whether their rate of pay is in line with the Equal Pay for Equal Work section. Employees also have the right, under this section, to ask that their employer to comply with the ESA and all regulations under it, make inquiries about the regulations, file complaints with the ministry, and exercise their abilities under the Act.


The Pay Transparency Act also allows employees the right not to be punished for inquiring about their compensation, for disclosing their compensation to another employee, or for asking for information based on transparency reports. 


Based on the ESA and the Pay Transparency Act, employers do not have the ability to prevent their employees from discussing their wages. Employees are able to confirm that their pay is in line with Part XII of the ESA, though they should remember that pay difference can be based on any of the other items listed above. 


What Obligations Do Employers Have?


Employers are obligated to allow their employees to discuss rates of pay to ensure that they are in line with Part XII of the ESA. They are prevented from intimidating, dismissing (firing), or otherwise penalizing employees if an employee does exercise any of their abilities given by the ESA, or if they make a complaint about their employer to the Ministry of Labour. 


As well as their obligations under the ESA, employers also have wage-related obligations based on the Pay Transparency Act. The Pay Transparency Act promotes gender equality and equal opportunity in the workplace through equal compensation and transparency of pay. Companies must include information about pay range when advertising a job, report on pay transparency (depending on the number of employees), and promote equality of genders through pay. Employers may not inquire about the compensation history of their employees or punish their employees if they inquire about their compensation rate, another employee’s compensation rate, or the transparency report.


Employers should be careful to read through their obligations regarding the compensation of their employees and ensure that any policies are in line with both the Pay Transparency Act and the ESA. 


Can I Hold My Workplace to That Standard?


Employees have the ability through both the ESA and the Pay Transparency Act to inquire about the requirements of both acts and whether their work is fulfilling them.


If your workplace has instituted policies that directly contradict the requirements under the ESA or the Pay Transparency Act, you are able to bring that to the attention of your employer. If they refuse to comply with the regulations of either Act, you may be able to make a claim to the Ministry of Labour.


Do you have more questions about the requirements of either act or if you have concerns about your workplace, be sure to reach out to a qualified employment lawyer at Achkar Law for more information.




Employers are obligate to pay attention to and fulfill the requirements laid out by the Ontario government in the Employment Standards Act and the Pay Transparency Act. It is important that each employer familiarizes themselves with the requirements of both acts, as well as the abilities of their employees. Any policies preventing employees from sharing their rates of compensation with one another directly violate both acts.


Employees should keep in mind that they have the ability, at any point, to share their rate of compensation with other employees, and to inquire about the rate of compensation of their coworkers. Employers should be maintaining equal pay between people of the same gender who are working in a comparable position. 


If you have questions or further concerns about sharing your rate of compensation, or about whether your compensation is unequal based on your sex or gender, be sure to seek help from a qualified employment lawyer at Achkar Law. 


Contact Us


If you are an employee who is concerned about your right to discuss wages, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist. 

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.