Can a company change on call standby rate without notification to employees?

I work for Charte/Spectrum. I am on call for
them 24/7 for 7 days once a month at least.
We had a pay rate of 199.95 for the past 5
years, but effective Jan 1st 2017 that rate
dropped to 150. We were not notified, our
manager was not notified, no one knew it just
dropped 50.00 per on call week. When we
inquired about it it took HR 10 months to
respond. Theyre response was that it was
unfortunate we werent notified, but this was
the rate going forward. I asked to get this all in
writing since we never really had anything in
writing prior. And I also asked for compensation
for the months we waited for an answer. Today
is Jan 9th, our last conversation with HR was in
OCTOBER. Still have not received a reply….

Asked on January 9, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No. While a company can change pay rates (including on-call standby rates) at will (as long as there is no contract locking in or guarantying the rate), any such change is only effective from the moment of notification of it forward--that is, the new rate goes into effect when they tell you about it. Pay changes are not retroactive: when you do work for an employer, you work pursuant to an agreement (even if only an oral or unwritten one) that you will be paid a certain amount for it. If you do the work (or are on-call), you must be paid as per the agreement or understanding then in effect. If you are not paid that rate or amount, you could sue for "breach of contract" for any additional pay owed prior to you being told or otherwise having notice of the change. Of course, depending on how much money you are talking about, it may not be economically worthwhile spending the time, effort, etc., on a lawsuit, even a small claims suit as your own attorney ("pro se")--you  need to evaluate whether the amount you are owed justifies taking legal action.


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