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Obama signs E.O. protecting whistle blowers who collect pay data on co-workers

President Obama
President Obama
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In a move to further President Obama's agenda on income inequality, the President signed a new Executive Order (E.O.) on April 8 promising protection for whistle blowers who provide data and information on co-worker pay and pay levels to the Administration.

This Executive Order follows a new Presidential Memorandum that calls for a new data collection committee to be convened which compiles information from men and women working in the Federal employment sphere, and determining whether there is pay discrimination for individuals working similar tasks and functions under the same job description. Additionally, the new committee will seek to determine if there is any racial bias in how pay and salaries are given, and from there, create new policies to address discrepancies.

When employees are prohibited from inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing their compensation with fellow workers, compensation discrimination is much more difficult to discover and remediate, and more likely to persist. Such prohibitions (either express or tacit) also restrict the amount of information available to participants in the Federal contracting labor pool, which tends to diminish market efficiency and decrease the likelihood that the most qualified and productive workers are hired at the market efficient price. Ensuring that employees of Federal contractors may discuss their compensation without fear of adverse action will enhance the ability of Federal contractors and their employees to detect and remediate unlawful discriminatory practices, which will contribute to a more efficient market in Federal contracting. - White

Previously, the law had worked in favor of the individual by protecting their information as private and personal. However, President Obama has made it clear in several recent interviews and news conferences that pay inequality, as well as income inequality, is a major threat to the American worker and is high on his agenda during his 2nd term in office.

While Federal pay schedules are a matter of public record, it is disconcerting to workers in Federal jobs to know that their private conversations and data could be collected by co-workers by overt or covert means. And even more, the President's new protection for these whistle blowers sends a confusing message to all agency employees since in the past, whistle blowers such as Eric Snowden and Susan Lindauer have been castigated and even jailed for disseminating illegal activities and information to the public that were potentially criminal for the Executive Branch.