Can an employee’s salary be arbitrarily cut?

UPDATED: Mar 29, 2011

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Can an employee’s salary be arbitrarily cut?

I was hired at a rate of $12 per hour as a teachers aide 3 months ago. I was just notified that my pay was to be cut to $10.65 to be in line with other aides. It was also pointed out that I was a male and the other aides were female and they were upset by the situation. Is this legal?

Asked on March 29, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, reducing your hourly wage is legal (as long as the minimum wage law is not violated which it's not).  The reason is that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will".  This means that an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements and change benefits as they see fit.  In turn, an employee can work for an employer, or not, their choice. 

However, there are exceptions to the above. If there is a stated company policy covering this, or there is a union/employment agreement that governs, or this situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination.  Discrimination can involves unfair treatment based on being in a protected class (and discrimination based on sex counts).  However, without more details of your situation its not clear whether or not this is a factor here.  At this point you should consult with an employment law attorney or speak with your state's department of labor (or it equivalent).

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 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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