Can a pay rate be changed without prior notice?

About 10 months ago, I was hired for a company at the pay rates of $12.00 p/h for 40 regular hours and $8.00 p/h for sleep time (I sleep over on the job 3 nights per week). Recently I and other employees were sent an E-mail informing us that our pay rate has been changed to a salary of $986 bi-weekly. This e-mail was sent 1 day before payday and was effective immediately. Also, in the e-mail was a new letter of hire that I was instructed to sign and return to HR as soon as possible.

Asked on October 30, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No prior notice is required, but such a change is only effective from the moment it is announced forward--i.e. if it is announced on Thursday, Oct. 29, then the pay rate is only changed from the time it is announced on Thur., Oct. 29 onward (or from such date after Thur., Oct. 29 as the notice states it takes effect). Everything up through end day Oct. 28 has to be paid at the prior rate. 
Of course, as a practical matter, the issue is whether it would be worth taking legal action. E.g. say that you should have been paid $1,300 under the old rate for two weeks, but are now getting $986 fo the two weeks; if you employer refuses to pay you the correct amount, you'd have to sue--is it worth suing your employer, which can have all types of bad effects, over $314 (in my example)? That's what you'd need to decide.
Your employer may require you to sign hire letters at any time, even after you've been there for awhile.


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