If my boss offered me a raise to stay with the company but has now reduced that raise substantially, what can I do?

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If my boss offered me a raise to stay with the company but has now reduced that raise substantially, what can I do?

Last month I told my boss I would be leaving at the end of the school year. He asked how much I was making at the time and I told him $17,500. He then said, “We will get you $30,000 to $35,000 if you stay”. So I decided to not look for other employment. Now that it is time for them to have contracts signed my contract says I will only be making $21,000. I would not have agreed to that when we were discussing pay originally. I have now lost a few potential jobs because of it. Is there anything that I can do?

Asked on March 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Speak with an employment lawyer--you may have a cause of action under the theory known as "promissory estoppel." When someone makes a promise to another, to get the second person to do something (like stay at a job and not look for other employment), and does so knowing that the other person may give up something in reliance on that promise (such as giving up other job opportunities), and the other person does in fact give up something significant, then the promisor may be "estopped," or prevented, from disclaiming or dishonoring the promise. The fact that you reasonably relied (the reliance must have been "reasonable") on a promise which was designed or intended to make you not look for other work may make that promise binding. ("Promissory estoppel" is sometimes called "detrimental reliance" since you relied on the promise to your detriment; it is that detrimental reliance which can make the promise binding.)


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