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My question about is how does the law work in general. If someone does something, and no one can find a law that is being broken, then is the person free to do that thing? Or must a law give permission? Basically I'm asking what is the default position?

For example, I was curious if in the province of British Columbia employers can force their employees to keep their wages confidential. I red the Employment Standards Act but couldn't find any information on the topic. What does it mean that it doesn't say either way?

  • How would laws that give permission work? For example there is no law that gives you "permission" to post on StackExchange, yet you are able to do so as long as you are not breaking other laws. Some laws may also give you obligations. For example you are obligated to pay taxes in most places and in most circumstances. – Brandin Jun 26 at 5:51
  • I recall a rather gruesome case in the UK of a man who encouraged children to perform sex acts while he watched. The law at the time only prohibited sexual touching, so he hadn't broken it and couldn't be prosecuted. The law was subsequently changed to make such conduct illegal. – Paul Johnson Jun 26 at 7:14
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Everything which is not prohibited is allowed

This is the fundamental basis of the common law (and is one of the reasons that countries with a common law tradition continue to be relatively more innovative than those without).

However, things do not have to be prohibited by statute to be prohibited. Judges have discretion to say that a “new” thing is sufficiently similar to an “old” thing that a prohibition on the latter encompasses the former.

As to your particular question: if it isn’t prohibited for a contract (of employment) to prohibit disclosure of salaries then its permitted for one to do so. In it is prohibited to so limit employees but such a clause can limit the employer.

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