Can an at-will-employer legally change an employee’s hourly wage without notice and retroactively?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an at-will-employer legally change an employee’s hourly wage without notice and retroactively?

A few weeks ago, my employer reduced one of my coworkers’ hourly wage for a short period because of his availability. Is it legal to do this without notice? Is it legal to retroactively change someone’s hourly rate for the final days worked after they have been fired for reason unrelated to policy violations or work quality?

Asked on August 15, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unless otherwise provided under the terms of an employment contract or union agreement, a worker's wage cannot be changed retroactively; all time worked must be paid at the agreed rate. That having been said, a pay reduction is legal for all work going forward once the employee is so notified, so they can either accept the decrease or quit.

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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