Can an employee’s salary be arbitrarily cut?

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 10 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).


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