If an employer posts a job at a certain dollar amount and someone accepts the job but when I start the job is told it will be for less money, is that legal?

I gave up another job for this one which was supposed to pay $20 per hour but actually pays $16 per hour.

Asked on August 31, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Generally, employers may change the pay, including lowering it, at any time, for any reason, without notice, so long as there is no written employment contract specifying pay with a contract, employment is employment at will, and part of employment at will is the ability of the employer to change pay or other compensation including benefits.
There is a narrow exception IF the employer promised you a certain pay--not just generally advertised it, but promised you specifically, such as during the interview or application process--and did so to get you to take the job and while they were doing that, they knew or reasonably should have known that to take the job, you'd have to do something to your detriment, like giving up another job and it was reasonable for you to rely on the employer's promise and you did in fact rely on their promise and do that thing to your detriment...then if all those criteria are met, you may be able to hold them to the promised pay under the theory of "promissory estoppel." You would do this by filing a lawsuit based on promissory estoppel. But you need all those criteria to be met, including the employer's knowledge of your situation and that you'd give up a job.


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