Am I allowed to know how much my predecessor made?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Am I allowed to know how much my predecessor made?

I took over a position about a year ago from an employee who no longer works for the company. While they didn’t tell me exactly what they were making when they left, they did inform me it was more than a certain amount. That amount is more than what I’m making, but the responsibilities of the job have more than tripled since they left. Am I allowed to ask what the previous employee was making when they left company without any ramifications?

Asked on August 22, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

There certainly is no law against asking such a question. However, this doesn't mean that you are entitled to a raise. Therefore, make sure to not demand more money but rather respectfully inquire about your situation in a professional way. The fact is that most employment is "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit. This includes when and why to terminate an employee. In fact, a worker can be fired for any reason or nor reason at all, with or without notice. That is unless such action violates the terms of any exisiting employment contract or union/collective bargaining agreement. Also, it must not constitute any form of legally actionable discrimination/retaliation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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