Can an employer give a cost of living increase to only certain employees and not to others?

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Can an employer give a cost of living increase to only certain employees and not to others?

Asked on February 2, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Kansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Absolutely: as a general matter, the law does NOT require cost of living raises, or any raises, ever; and also does NOT require that all employees be treated alike or fairly. Raises are completely discretionary. The only two exceptions:

1) There was some written employment contract or agreement calling for a raise; if there was, the company must honor its terms and give raises to anyone contractually entitled to them.

2) Who got raises--and who didn't get--is based on illegal discrimination, such as against an employee due to his or her race, sex, religion, disability status, or age over 40. This would be illegal. Note that this does NOT meant that it's illegal to give a white employee a raise, but not an African American employee; or that you can't give a man more of raise than a woman. What it does mean is that you can't you give employee A more than B *because* A is a man, or white; rather, there must be some nondiscriminatory reason, such as better job performance, different job titles, different levels of seniority or experience, etc. which caused A to get more than B.


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