If my employer gave all employees a Christmas bonus except for myself and2 other people, is this discrimination?

UPDATED: Dec 15, 2011

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If my employer gave all employees a Christmas bonus except for myself and2 other people, is this discrimination?

Asked on December 15, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It depends on just why you weren't paid a bonus. If it was due to the fact that your employer feels that you didn't deserve one because your work product was less than satisfactory, not paying you a bonus is perfectly legal. This is true whether or not other employees receive one. The fact is that employees need not be treated equally (or even fairly). That is so long as no actionable discrimination is the reason for the differing treatment. In other words, it you were not paid a bonus because of your membership in a protected class, than that constitues actionable discrimination, and as is illegal. So if you weren't given a bonus because you were a woman, or a Muslim, or disabled that would be against the law (legally protected classes are those based on gender, religion, disability, race, etc).

Additionally, not paying you a bonus is unlawful if failing to give one violates company policy or the terms of an employment contract or union agreement.

Otherwise, as a general rule an employer can set the conditions of employment as it sees fit. In turn, an employee can choose to work for as particular employer or not. 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 AttorneyPages.com 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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