Is it illegal to withhold back pay?

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Is it illegal to withhold back pay?

The company I work for certified me for the next level of shift lead almost a year and a half ago. I never got my raise for it. First I was told there was no proof now that I’ve found my key codes the papers initialed off on to certify me they tell me they won’t give me anymore because I’m within the pay range. I wasn’t in the pay range until they gave me my raise from our evaluations last month, they say there is no set pay rate for the level I’m at but they refuse to give me the raise I was promised.

Asked on May 15, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unless you have an employment contract (or union agreement) that guarantees this raise, then you have no claim here. As a general rule, a person or entity businesss is not bound by a mere verbal promise. Further, the fact is that most work relationships are "at will". This means that an employer can set the conditions of work much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If you have a written contract for a defined or set period of time (such as one-year contract) guarantying you that raise, then they have to honor the contract and provide it--you can sue them for "breach of contact" if they do not. But that's only if you had such a written contract.
Without a written contract, promises made by your employer are not enforceable due to "employment at will" (the right of the employer to, among other things, change the terms of employment at will), which is the law of the land in the absence of a contract. So if the promised raise was not in a contract, they do not need to provide it.


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