Can my employer refuse to back pay me for a raise that I was supposed to receive a year ago upon my receiving my pharmacy technician certification?

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Can my employer refuse to back pay me for a raise that I was supposed to receive a year ago upon my receiving my pharmacy technician certification?

When I was hired, I was told that I would receive a $1.00 raise upon certification. After I had became certified, I had asked my supervisor about my increase and he said that he would look into it. He told me that they wouldn’t give me my raise. My manager was terminated, and I brought it to my new managers attention. They said that I was supposed to get a raise and told me that the personnel manager would have to look into my back pay. I was finally given a $1.25 raise.on my paycheck it was not included. When asked, they said that the company is trying to fight it.

Asked on May 24, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, your employer can most likely refuse to pay you back pay. That is because if there was no actual employment contract or agreement between you and the employer guarantying you this pay, their promise to give you a raise was just that--only a promise. However, the law does not enforce "gratuitious promises" unless you--

1) Had to give up something important, or do something significant to your detriment, like giving up another opportunity, accepting a transfer or relocation, etc. to accept the promise;

2) The employer knew you'd have to give up something or do something significant to your detriment to accept the promise, but made the promise anyway;

3) It was reasonable for you to rely on the promise (i.e. no reason to think it wasn't a firm, sincere promise); and

4) You did in fact rely on it, and due to that reliance, did the thing to your detriment.

If all of the criteria above are met, the promise may be enforceable under the theory of "promissory estoppel." But without all criteria being met, the employer is free to disclaim or dishonor the promise.


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