What recourse if a company offers a promotion and refuses the pay increase after performing the job duties?

UPDATED: May 29, 2012

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What recourse if a company offers a promotion and refuses the pay increase after performing the job duties?

Company was acquired. The new company offered a promotion with added responsibilities. After accepting the job, was informed the increase was denied. Now am working with additional responsibilities and no additional compensation.

Asked on May 29, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you had an employment contract or agreement detailing the additional pay you'd receive for accepting the promotion, you could sue to enforce it. In the absence of a contract, however, the law does not enforce promises in the vast majority of cases; the employer would be free to renege on its promise of more pay. You could potentially enforce the promise only if you could show that you had to do something significant to your detriment to take the promotion, and the company knew you'd have to do that, and knowing that, made you the offer anyway.

Simply working harder or having more responsibilities, however, would not be a sufficient detriment to enforce the promise, since your employer, in the absence of an employment contract delineating your duties, could change your duties, give you more responsibilities, or simply make you work harder any time it wanted you to. (Without a contract, you are an "employee at will," and your employer may do anything it wants vis-a-vis your employment, up to and including terminating you.) Rather, the sort of detriment which would be required to potentially enforce this promise would be something like accepting a transfer to a different (and distant or less-desirable location); giving up some benefits to take the promotion (e.g. giving up the ability to earn overtime); accepting a transfer from day to night shift; giving up some other job offer; etc. Without your having to do something of that scale to your detriment to take the promotion, you would not be able to hold your employer to its promise.

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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