Can my employer give everyone else a bonus but me after 11 years of employment?

UPDATED: Dec 17, 2011

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Can my employer give everyone else a bonus but me after 11 years of employment?

Year end bonus were given out to all employees except for myself. I am the accountant and have been with the company for over 11 years. Can he do this?

Asked on December 17, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that it depends on why you weren't given one. If it was because your employer felt that you didn't deserve a bonus because your work product was not up to par, then not paying you one is perfectly legal. This is true whether regardless of what other employees did or did not receive. What most people fail to understand is that employees need not be treated equally (or even fairly) so long as no actionable discrimination is the reason for the difference in treatment. In other words, it you were not paid a bonus because of your membership in a protected class, than that constitutes actionable discrimination, which is is illegal. Accordingly, if you were not given a bonus because you were a woman, a Buddhist, or disabled that would be against the law (legally protected classes are those based on gender, religion, disability, race, national origin, etc).

Absent that, your only other protection would be if not paying you a bonus violates company policy or the terms of an employment contract or union agreement.

Otherwise, an employer can set the conditions of employment as it deems necessary and see fit. In turn, an employee can work for as particular employer or not, their choice. This is called "at will" employment. 

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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