Can you be hired at one pay rate and then lowered to another without any recourse?

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Can you be hired at one pay rate and then lowered to another without any recourse?

I was hired at one rate then, once hired and working for over a month, the employer felt I did not meet the requirements and considerably lowered my wages. I tried to negotiate a fair wage between the hire money and the decreased amount. Employer said no and will not negotiate. I left my previous employer because I was given a better pay here. Now that they are paying me way lower then my previous employer. Is this legal? What is my next step?

Asked on August 17, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, if you have an employment agreement, even one expressed not necessarily as a formal contract (e.g. an offer letter, setting out the terms of your employment, including salary), check it's language; if it, by it's terms, would preclude them from doing what they did, you may be able to enforce it.

In the absence of an agreement of some kind, given the fact that you left another job to take this job, IF your current employer knew you were doing that--i.e. they knew what you were giving up in reliance on their promise to pay you at a certain rate--you may be able to force  them to pay you at that higher rate, at least for a reasonable length of time, under a theory known as "promissory estoppel." If you believe this was the case--that your new employer knew what you were giving up to take the job--then you should speak with an employment attorney to see if you would have a viable case and what it might be worth. Good luck.


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