Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (C) speaks about the Paycheck Fairness Act during a news conference with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Dianne Feinsten (D-Calif.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) in the Lyndon B. Johnston Room at the U.S. Capitol May 23, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The Democratic bill to close the pay gap between men and women fell short today in the Senate along clear partisan lines. - 

President Obama is set to sign an executive order Tuesday prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries.

This effort to increase wage transparency has another obstacle: our workplace culture, in which asking your cube-mate what he or she makes is virtually taboo.

"Well, it's said that Americans love to talk about sex, but don't like to talk about their salaries," says Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution. 

However, many employers also have policies discouraging or prohibiting workers from sharing compensation information. That’s despite the fact that the National Labor Relations Board considers wage discussions a ‘protected’ activity.