Are you being underpaid? These co-workers are most likely to tell you what they earn

Traditionally when it comes to discussing salaries in the workplace, mum’s the word.

But millennials appear to be throwing that practice by the wayside along with dinner dates and shopping at department stores.

Nearly one in three workers between the ages of 18 and 36 (30%) said they talk to co-workers about how much money they make, according to a new study released Wednesday by personal-finance website The Cashlorette.com, a subsidiary of Bankrate. And older millennials (those ages 27 to 36) are slightly more likely to make this bold move, at 33%.

Don’t miss: This is why you shouldn’t lie to a future employer about salary

Social media and peer-to-peer payments apps like Venmo could be making young people more comfortable talking about finances in general, said Sarah Berger, founder of The Cashlorette.com. Millennials have also tapped into the push toward closing the wage gap between men and women and among people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, she said.

“Millennials might feel emboldened to talk about money at work to make sure they’re at a company that’s making an effort to close the wage gap,” Berger said.

Baby boomers prefer to keep financial matters between friends and family

  • 71% baby boomers will discuss salaries with their spouse or significant other — a larger share than any other generation. Just 64% of Americans overall will talk about their wages with a spouse.
  • One in five Americans will talk salary with coworkers. Meanwhile, just 8% of baby boomers will share this information with colleagues.

Why people should talk about salaries

Pay transparency is frequently touted as a means of addressing wage inequality. While no study has identified a direct link between secrecy around salaries and the wage gap, a 2014 study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that “secrecy appears to contribute to the gender gap in earnings.” In particular, nearly two in three single mothers said their employer discouraged or prohibited discussion about salaries, compared with 51% of women and 47% of men overall.

Talking about salaries more might not just address disparities in pay — others have argued morale and collaboration among coworkers improves when they know they are on a level footing earnings-wise.

People’s concerns of retribution are not supported by law

Rather than mere etiquette, fear of retaliation by management and getting fired for discussing salaries is what keeps more people from doing so, millennials and baby boomers alike. And much of that fear stems from the employers themselves. “There are a shocking number of employers who threaten or cajole employees into not discussing their pay,” said Donna Ballman, an employment lawyer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Any discussion of wages is going to raise your boss’s hackles.”

Also see: When is it OK to bring up salary in a relationship?

The National Labor Relations Act protects most workers’ rights to talk about pay with co-workers. But Ballman cautions that anyone considering doing so first check to make sure they are not exempt — the law generally does not cover government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors and supervisors.

If a boss threatens an employee for talking about their salaries, Ballman recommended going to human resources and pointing to the guidelines put forth by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). And if someone is fired or retaliated against for this, she said they should file a complaint with the NLRB or find a lawyer through the National Employment Lawyers Association.

While discussions like these are important in closing the wage gap, Ballman did say it’s important that workers consider more than just the legality of doing so. “You have the right to do it,” she said. “But you’ve got to be careful because your coworkers could be offended, too.”

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