Can an employer give a cost of living increase to only certain employees and not to others?

All the men in our office received a cost of living increase this year. All women did not. Is that legal?

Asked on September 8, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Arkansas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

UNLESS it represents illegal discrimination, such as sex-based discrimination, an employer could choose to give some employees COLAs but not others. However, while an employer may treat employees differently for many reasons, both good (e.g. performance) and bad (e.g. nepotism), what they *can't* do is treat women worse than men just because they are women. What you describe appears on its face to be illegal sex-based discrimination; you may wish to contact the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency to file a complaint, so they can look into this. If they find discrimination, the women may be entitled to compensation.

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