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

UPDATED: Feb 2, 2015

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 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.

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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