Q: Can your employer reduce your pay if you decline a promotion due to them not accepting your salary counteroffer?
I live in California. My wife works for a private company with senior citizens as an assistant. She makes $17.36 per hour and works full-time. Last week, she was offered a promotion to work as a full-time manager. They offered her $19.12 per hour, but my wife wants $20 at the minimum like other managers have received. So, she just requested this amount last week. This morning, they denied her counteroffer and advised that their policy is such that promotions can be no more than around a 10% increase in pay, which we get. However, they also advised that if she didn't accept this offer, there'd be chance that the company would move her down to PART-TIME in her assistant role, since they'd have to hire a manager for the role she'd be declining.
Can they do this? Can they suddenly reduce her hours (and overall pay) in her current role if she declined the promotion since her job won't accept her counteroffer? We really need some guidance.
A: There is nothing unlawful about an employer punishing an employee who turns down a promotion or who seeks more money. Not all forms of retaliation in the workplace are unlawful. The only kinds of retaliation that are unlawful are acts of retaliation triggered by the employee engaging in legally protected conduct. Turning down a promotion or seeking more money from the employer is not legally protected. Absent legal protection, the general rule of at will employment will control. That general rule is that the employer of an at will employee can change the terms and conditions of employment, including hours worked and pay, at any time and for any reason or even no reason at all.
If she turns them down, the employer can do exactly what they are threatening and your wife will not have legal recourse.
Good luck to the two of you.
A: I agree with what Mr. Pedersen said in his comments. I wonder why there is a pay disparity between her and the other managers? The excuse about the 10% cap is chaff, she is being moved to a new position, not getting a salary increase for doing the same job. There are no laws capping a pay increase at 10%, it is just BS. The reason for a pay disparity between your wife and the other managers should be investigated, is she older? Is there a difference in race/ ethnicity/ national origin? These are illegitimate reasons. Does she have less education, years of experience? These are legitimate reasons. Probably best if you contact an employee rights attorney in your area. You can find one on the California Employee Attorney's website (CAOC), or here.
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