Can an employer change the amount of a bonus based on whether or not the employee claims exempt or not?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer change the amount of a bonus based on whether or not the employee claims exempt or not?

A group of co-workers and I were told we would be getting a bonus of $500 each. Some of us went exempt, some did not. Those claiming exempt got a bonus of $$54, those that did not got up to 700. We did not know they would adjust the amounts based on what what claimed. Is this legal? If they can change our bonus amount based on what we claim, what stops them from changing our pay rates if we decide to go exempt some random week for whatever reason? We just want to know what laws relate to this, we all should have been paid out the same.

Asked on February 1, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Nevada


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unless you had a written bonus agreement or employment contract which guaranteed not just that you would get bonuses but the amount of the bonuses (such as based upon some objective measure), you bonus was 100% discretionary, or at the free will of your employer. An employer may pay whatever it wants as a discretionary bonus and is not bound to what it promised or previously indicated. Without an objectively measured, contractually guaranteed bonus, you bonus was whatever your employer elected to pay and could be different for different employees.

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