If I received a lower raise at work than what I was supposed to get, do I have any recourse?

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If I received a lower raise at work than what I was supposed to get, do I have any recourse?

Upon accepting a new position at work I was told I would be receiving a 15% increase in salary. I also have a memo my direct boss signed stating that in a meeting with his boss and the HR director that it was agreed upon between them that my new position would be eligible for a 15% increase. HR now says I can only receive 10% due to the fact it would put me above people with the same job title who have worked in the organization for more years. My department is more work intensive so I don’t see how that should matter as I do much more work than smaller departments.

Asked on July 31, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An employer is generally free to set or change, including reduce, an employee's raises or wages at will. If there was an actual employment contract, which guaranteed you a certain raise, that would likely be enforceable. Or if, based on the promise of the raise, you did something significant to your detriment (accepted a transfer; relocated; gave up a different job opportunity; etc.), you may be able to enforce the promise under the doctrine of "promissory estoppel." However, if it was simply a promise made (whether orally or in writing) by your employer, that you did not have to give up or pay anything to get, then it is most likely not enforceable and the employer may choose to give you a lower raise, even if such is unfair (the law does not enforce fairness).


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