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Backing Out on a Raise

Backing Out on a Raise

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

I started a job at $10 an hour. I took the job because I needed income, and wasn’t planning to stay for very long. I liked it, because it was a 10 minute drive to work, and steady pay. I was offered another job that would be $14 an hour, but it was a 30 minute drive. I offered the place I was working a chance to keep me on by meeting the offer, because I liked the office and the short drive.

My boss’ response was this email:

We would like to keep you as an Administrative Assistant with BUSINESS. I can offer you a full-time position as an Administrative Assistant but only at the $12.00 per hour mark right now due to the limited duties. Once we finish the mailings which should be in a month or so (based on your speediness), we will have the option to increase you to your desired wage of $14.00 per hour. I will have HR manager put a formal promotion letter for the Administrative Assistant position in place to you by tomorrow. Please confirm that you will be staying and that you are accepting this promotion. Thank you.

Well, this was well over a month ago. Plus, during this time, I’ve been taking on a lot of additional duties, and we’ve moved the office (in a very quick and unexpected move) so that my current commute is now 35 minutes. We moved because the rent would be much lower and would save the company a lot of money.

I asked my boss about the raise and was told it might be two months now… and to ask again in a couple days. I asked again in a couple days and I’ve been told that the company can’t afford it right now. I’d just have to stay at $12 an hour.

I’d like to know if I have any recourse open to me, legally, about getting the raise I’ve earned. Or should I just start looking for another job?

I’m not a lawyer, and you may want to consult one, but at a minimum, this is terribly unfair: You turned down a job specifically because they made you a promise to increase your rate of pay. It sounds like you have that in writing.

There may be a legal issue here. On the other hand, even if there is, you can pretty much expect your relationship with your employer to go to hell if you bring in a lawyer. (Fair? No. Reality? Yes.)

I’d handle it this way: Go to your boss and explain that you’re very concerned because you turned down another offer at their request, specifically because they offered you a pay increase. Say that you turned down the more lucrative position because your boss gave you her word, and you’re asking her to honor it, since you accepted it in good faith.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that the company really is in such dire financial straits that they can no longer afford to make good on their promise — in which case, you’ll need to decide whether or not you want to stay. But if they can’t afford to pay you this extra $80/week, I’d be questioning whether you or any of their employees have much job security anyway.

Quiz: Time to Quit Your Job?