Need advice: disciplined for disclosing hourly pay to co-worker . . .


  • Specializes in MICU. Has 7 years experience.

I have been a nurse for 8 years and worked in the financialy industry prior to that for 15 years. In all those years I have never done anything unethical or even questionably unethical. I feel strongly that integrity is the most important thing a person can develop in themselves. I love nursing and consider it a priviledge to care for people in their time of need.

I say that to say this: . . . I have been in my current job for almost 1 year and love what I am doing (a small doctor's office). In a conversation with a co-worker in which she was telling me that she was looking for work elsewhere, I disclosed my pay rate. We are both Per Diem and were discussing the pros/cons of our jobs. We both made it clear that the conversation was confidential (I am a big stickler for that - I have NEVER broken confidence and expect the same from others). I told her my pay, thinking that she made more than me (she has been a nurse for 20 years) and that it might help her to feel better about her situation (i.e. if she knew that I was paid less). I don't recall her having a negative or postive reaction to what I told her. Well, almost 3 months later I get called in to my boss' office and am told that "SEVERAL" of the nurses said I told them my pay, AND now they are ALL wanting pay increases. "Why did you tell them what you make?", "Don't you know that is against policy?". . . I was shocked for two reasons: 1) I thought our conversation was confidential but she obviously broke confidence, and 2) I don't know why it did not occur to me that disclosing my pay was against policy - how ignorant was I???. In hindsight I cannot really explain why I thought it would help to tell her. I do remember that in the conversation I was not casual about the disclosure and had no other intention but to help - I really don't understand my lack of judgement. I really did not think I was doing anything "wrong". I could not even really explain the situation to my boss because I immediately realized the negative impact of my disclosure (why did this not occur to me then?????) and didn't even try to explain because I felt like it would just sound like me trying to make excuses - I broke policy, I read my employee handbook/policy manual and am soley responsible for the chaos that has been created and felt compelled to just own it - no back story, no excuses - there are none.

Ashamed and embarrased, I am afraid that any prospect of advancement in the future is out of the question and that my job is now on the line. I am afraid that I have lost the respect of my boss and her supervisor (who originally hired me). I cannot stop thinking about this - day and night for the last week - and cry off and on when I think of it.

Any advice/comments/impressions? Thanks (and sorry so long winded).


805 Posts

Specializes in SICU.

Yes you broke policy. However, when you think about it the only reason to have such a policy is to keep the wages of employees low and below the standards of the industry.

As an example: nurse A has 15 years experience, all at the same hospital. with a no tell policy. gets yearly wage increases, but that is all. Is now paid, say $20 an hour. The standard for new employees with her experience should be, say $25 an hour. Nurse B has 5 years experience and is just starting at the hospital, in order for the hospital to get her to agree to work for them they will pay her say $22 an hour.

Should nurse B be paid more than nurse A who has more experience?

Your problem comes from thinking that medial/nursing is an ethical business, it is not. You thought that experience would be valued and that your co-worker with more experience than you would be paid more than you. It seems not.

You are upset because you told about your pay rate to one co-worker. You are also upset because your co-worker then told others in the office. If you make a lot more than them, you can bet it got talked about. As in, guess what ...... makes!

You need to be upset with the system, it is designed to underpay anyone that stays and works for them any length of time, so why would you want to stay for too long. If you did, then you would be the one being paid less than the newcomer.

Your co-workers deserve the pay increase that they are asking for. If your bosses had not been underpaying them then your disclosure of your pay would be of no consequence. Your being punished because they got found out.

Has 25 years experience.


I'm sorry this has happened to you. All I can say, we're all human and make mistakes/errors in judgement, or trust people that we shouldn't trust, for various reasons. Who can be perfect 100% of the time! Of course the employer is upset, wage confidentiality is one way to keep staff "happy". But I don't have to tell you this, you've been around the block.

One thing to consider: you're a per diem/PRN employee, who typically get a higher hourly wage because they don't get benefits, sick days, etc. Full time employees never take this into consideration, though... but it's one thing your employer can use to pacify the rest of the staff (and I'm sure he will).

What to do? I do think you should explain yourself (that's not making excuses) and say something like what you wrote in your post ("Error in judgement..."). Yes, own it, and apologize for it. Ask what you can do to make this right (if anything).

You can't change what happened, and I don't think it necessarily ruins your career chances at this office. You will be able to tell by the way they (supervisors, colleagues) react to you. It may blow over, or it may become uncomfortable for you to work there; I hope the former.

I wish you the very best!



38,333 Posts

If a person wants to disclose their pay, like any other personal information, there is no reason why they can not. Employers discourage this only to the employer's advantage. If they do not want such information to be a problem, then they should pay their employees evenly across the board according to established, public standards. You did something unwise because the person was not trustworthy, but there was nothing wrong in what you did. And almost everyone makes an in error in judgement along the way now and then. Now you know what kind of a coworker you have in this individual. Act accordingly in future dealings with her.


2 Posts

Specializes in MICU. Has 7 years experience.

Thank you ukstudent, DeLana_RN and caliotter3 for your responses. It always helps to have some objective feedback. Thanks again. :)