Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Don't tell anyone what we're paying you!"

Have you ever heard this from a supervisor or HR rep? Has an employer (union or non-union) ever made you sign a contract saying you agree not to reveal your salary, or made any comments related to keeping your salary a secret?

Last week we sent out our annual wage survey questionnaire, which went out to everyone listed as having worked under our jurisdiction in the last year. Every year, we hear from a few people who say they just can't fill it out because they agreed to keep their salaries secret.

Did you know that this is illegal?

Yes, the California Labor Code prohibits employers from:

  • requiring as a condition of employment that any employee refrain from disclosing the amount of their wages [Section 232(a)];
  • requiring an employee to sign a waiver of their right to disclose their wages [§232(b)]; or
  • discharging, formally disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against an employee who discloses the amount of their wages [§232(c)].

The language of the state code can be found here.

In short, the law is clear -- you have the right to disclose and discuss your wages with anybody, or to choose of your own free will not to disclose. And no, they're not allowed to "drop hints" or other subtle coercion. If you want to stand up for your right to share wage information with others, including the Guild or other employees, report any such threats to the Guild office at once.

Our annual wage survey questionnaire is anonymous and confidential, it should take you less than three minutes to fill out, and it even comes with a postage-paid return envelope. The information we get from it is critical, especially in these uncertain times, for everyone to know what the going rates are in the animation biz. (The 2007 wage survey is here, in PDF format. The 2008 survey will be posted here and on the TAG website in early March and will be published in the March Peg-Board.)

If you worked under our jurisdiction last year and you don't get a copy of the wage survey in the next few days, e-mail me or call me at (818) 766-7151 and I'll make sure you get one.

Addendum: Long ago, I tussled with ananimation studio over personal service contracts that it claimed were totally confidential. (This included the salaries listed therein.)

I kept pointing out to studio administration that this was in conflict with state labor law (shown above). They allowed as how maybe it was, but in their words: "As long as nobody takes us to court to litigate it, we're okay ..."

Eventually they took the confidentiality provision out, and life went on its serene way. But one thing I know is, studios never want wages revealed. It helps companies to keep the info under wraps, but less than nothing to assist employees.

So I'm asking you, when you get the wage survey, fill it out and send it back. We'll be putting the results up on line.

-- Steve Hulett


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