Can an employer punish an employee by delaying the wage increase corresponding to a promotion they have been given?

UPDATED: Aug 23, 2011

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Can an employer punish an employee by delaying the wage increase corresponding to a promotion they have been given?

In this situation the employee works an entry level food service job and has been promoted to the position of “Closer”. This position entails new tasks and responsibilities that other employees who do not close do not have. In accepting this position the employee was promised a 45 cent raise to his hourly wages. A week goes by, training is complete and the employee has begun working this new position regularly. However, do to a small infraction/misunderstanding the manager decides to delay the raise associated with the position by an arbitrary 2 weeks. Is this legal?

Asked on August 23, 2011 Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, if you don't have an employment contract guarantying the terms of your employment, you are an employee at will. An employee at will may be terminated (fired) at will by the employer--at any time, for any reason. And similarly, steps short of termination can be taken by the employer at will, too--so, for example, the employer could demote, transfer, change the hours, shifts, or duties, or reduce the pay of the employee at will. Employees at will have almost no protections at work; so if a person is an employee at will, then the employer may reduce his or her pay for a two week period--or indeed, reduce it permanently, or suspend the employee, or even fire him or her, due to an infraction or for any reason whatsoever.

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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