Does an employer legally have to pay an employee a wage within the given pay scale that the employer has established?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Does an employer legally have to pay an employee a wage within the given pay scale that the employer has established?

Lets say pay scale was between $16/h-$20/hr for a given job title and at some point the company adjusted the pay scale up to $17/hr-$22/hr for said job title. The company never notified the employee or the employee’s supervisor of the increase to the pay scale. So, the company continued to pay the employee $16.61/hr for months after the increase to the pay scale was made. Now, the employee finds all of this out and they are still making less then the new increased pay scale amount and the employee has no intention of adjusting the employees wage immediately to get them into the pay scale for their job title. They say they will try to get the employee up to the new pay scale amount once raise time comes around.

Asked on December 22, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If the employee has a written employment contract requiring that he or she be paid within the pay scale, then the company must honor that contract and increase the employee's pay if the scale increases. If the employer does not, the employee could sue for "breach of contract" to enforce the terms of the contract and get the extra money.
But if there is no such written contract, the pay scale is just the company's voluntary and freely adopted guidelines for pay; it is not enforceable, and the employer may ignore it at will and would not have to increase the employee's pay.

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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