Should I insist on a raise?
January 6, 2006 4:35 PM   Subscribe

My employers say that my promised raise was accidentally included in my initial salary (and therefore I won't be getting one).

Having recently gained certain qualifications, I started a new job in September of 2005. I started at a salary of (say) $60k and was promised a raise to $63k upon the completion of my state board certification. I got my results (passing!) yesterday. Today, my colleagues bought me cake and my superior brought me into his office and sheepishly told me there had been a mistake; I had already been getting the post-boards salary during my time with them. They wouldn't ask for the money back, but (of course) there would be no raise. He apologized many times.

I got home, and looked at my last paycheck, and realized that I'd been getting a $60k salary the whole time — what he'd meant was that I should have been getting paid less when I started!

I know what you'll ask — what does my contract say? I was told when I started “we don't have contracts here”. And I know what you'll think — No contract? This is a shady organization I've gotten involved with. But I'm sure that's not true. I love working here, and we're doing good things (it's a non-profit). I trust the people that I work for and I'm certain that this was a mistake.

But my salary is low for professionals in this field (even at non-profits) in this part of the country. If they had wanted to hire me at 5% less than what I'm making now, I'd have had second thought about working here.

So — should I rock the boat and insist on the raise? Should I, at the very least, insist on a contract? I have this dirty feeling of having been taken advantage of that I don't know how to get rid of.
posted by skryche to Work & Money (26 answers total)
Would you have taken the job if it had been for (e.g.) $60k with no raise after the boards?

Could you meet with them and ask if they can meet you half-way?

Where I live, employers have to give you salary information, a job description and a contract in writing. Maybe you should ask for that now, just so you have it.

If you can't negotiate meeting half-way and you don't absolutely love the job and you're confident you could make more elsewhere, consider making a move. But you might want to wait to make that move until you've got a year under your belt, if you're new to the field.
posted by acoutu at 4:39 PM on January 6, 2006

Well, it's mostly a moral question, not a legal one. In most states, your employer isn't required to give you a raise, however one could make the argument you had a legal contract. Is the $3k/year worth spending money on a lawyer? I would imagine trying to litigate this (prove that you had an oral contract) would cost a lot more then that.

I'd say, look for other jobs and see if you can find any with a higher salary. If you can, then go back to your boss and just tell him that you want $63k/year, no questions asked. If he doesn't give it to you, jump ship.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on January 6, 2006

At-will employment is standard in all sorts of industries. You're only guaranteed payment for the work that you've performed. You are free to quit at any time if you don't like your compensation.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:45 PM on January 6, 2006

There are a number of options, and you seem to have already enumerated them yourself, but do not just accept it and do nothing. If you do nothing, you are basically rolling over and saying that you are your employer's bitch, and that you will let them fuck you when they please. The fact that it was an 'accident' and that the company is a non-profit doesn't change that at all. You think they can't scrape together another three thousand dollars a year? Give me a break.
posted by bingo at 4:47 PM on January 6, 2006

If you think you're going to be there a while, you could accept the non-raise now on the condition that they promise you a raise to $66k next year.
posted by staggernation at 4:48 PM on January 6, 2006

I think staggernations suggestion is a good one. As it stands, you have no way of knowing whether they're bullshitting you or not—it certainly sounds like they are, but you seem pretty sure they're good guys. So give them a chance to prove it. If it's an honest mistake, they should be eager to make you happy.
posted by languagehat at 5:13 PM on January 6, 2006

if you're enjoying the job, roll with it and see how things go - good jobs are worth more than 3k. but chat to others and see if this kind of thing is common if it is, perhaps they're not such great people...
posted by andrew cooke at 5:15 PM on January 6, 2006

As an alternative to staggernation's suggestion, you would be justified in asking for the raise now, but foregoing a raise next year. I mean, if they're a decent company, they might give you the raise they promised now, but they might not give you the standard raise next year to make up for it. If they are interested in you for the long term, this should be no problem for them.

Personally, I would ask for what was promised. Get the money now. Who knows what will happen a year from now? There's nothing good about selling yourself for less than you are worth. You can't be happy knowing you are being shorted every day.
posted by etc. at 5:19 PM on January 6, 2006

So monetarily you're out approx. $175/month ($3000/12 - est. taxes). That's not huge but it is a decent amount. I guess you have to decide whether everything else there is worth not making a stink about it. Is there potential for growth? Do you wake up every morning and WANT to go there? Will the position add to your resume? If you have reservations about any of these then maybe it's worth fighting for the money and if necessary - looking for something else.

Ultimately, your daily happiness is what matters. No amount of money can buy peace of mind. We've all had jobs at some point where we would give some money back just to not be annoyed or stressed out on a daily basis. If you're happy with everything and this is the only "glitch," I say let it go. But...definitely fight for a raise next time it comes around.
posted by nwhycgirl328 at 5:20 PM on January 6, 2006

I would agree with Staggernation, IF they'll agree to put it in writing for you.
An email briefly stating those terms would be sufficient.
posted by BillBishop at 5:28 PM on January 6, 2006

Rock the boat, man. What have you got to lose?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2006

Dude, if you were told "You'll get $60K now and $63K after you pass the boards" when you were hired and now they are saying "actually, you should have been getting $57K, and only should be making $60K now" you ahve got a mojor beef. Even without a contract, they should make good on what they told you. My wife was once told the starting salary for her job was $16/hr when she was hired. After examining her paystub closely after she worked there for a month or so, she realized she was only getting $15/hr. Not only did she make them give her an instant raise, but she told them it better be retroactive to the beginning of her employment. A promise is a promise, and if your employer is at all decent they will pay you what they said they would. Now keep in mind that you may not be getting another raise at the next cycle, but you should stand up for what you deserve. Don't be an ass about it, but tell them to live up to their promise.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:09 PM on January 6, 2006

er, "have" got a "major" beef.

/mmm, mojor beef...
posted by Rock Steady at 6:10 PM on January 6, 2006

Follow Staggernation.

Say, that you understand the would have been less likely for you to take the job...but now that you have, you really like it + the people're welcome to forgive their mistake...on the understanding that you'll get it made up correctly in the following year.
posted by filmgeek at 6:11 PM on January 6, 2006

I would fight like hell. To me this would not be acceptable.

I'd speak to the supervisor, recent pay stub in hand, and point out that you've only been getting 60k/yr, not 63. Therefore it appears that the promised raise has not been included in your paycheck. Then stop and don't say another word. There is nothing to "negotiate." You were promised the raise, and it has not been included in your paycheck yet. Either they will make good on the promise or they won't. If they don't, and you stay, you have made it clear to your employer that you'll put up with basically anything.

I say this as a person who has suffered much as a result of being "too nice." Don't be nice.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2006

You really need to take it back to him and explain the case. It sounds like the previous discussion was completely based on misunderstandings, and you need to have another one.
posted by smackfu at 6:17 PM on January 6, 2006

It is time to tell them that you feel that they have been dishonest with you, that you do not feel that it was just a mistake. Be exceedingly polite, yet firm. From your question, this is the truth. Then get your resume polished. This is an excellent time of year for job hunting. Potential employers have brand new unspent budgets and your current employer seems less than ethical. It that is true, do not stay. Unethical employers will make your life hell and can ruin careers, lives etc.
posted by caddis at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2006

I work at a nonprofit. I got screwed on my starting salary due to some manipulative stuff on the part of the HR director. This happens all the time. Try and get your cash next year by making sure that your performance review is stellar.
posted by desuetude at 7:46 PM on January 6, 2006

I don't know what your industry is, but if you're salaried and you took a big state exam to bring greater value to your job, I'm sure that represented some sacrifice on your part, with significant prepation done on your own time. I agree with those advising you to go back to your boss and politely state that there is a misunderstading: you have not been getting paid 63k, but rather 60k, which was the salary you were offered to start. If you need to press past this, explain as you have here: you love your job, but if the offered salary at your hire date had been 57k you would have negotiated differently at the time.

You have value that you didn't before your certification. Additionally, you probably now have additional responsibilities that accompany it. This is a fundamental matter of fairness. Whether it's an innocent error or not, or a place you love to work or not, they misrepresented your salary to you, and you are the only person who can look out for yourself in this instance.

(Another thing to consider: is there something of equal or similar value you'd trade for this year, if they promise to raise your salary next year? A few extra weeks of vaction, for instance? Because the idea of calling this year a wash is risky, whether they give you a good raise next year or not. There's no guarantee you'll be there next year, and if you accept nothing at this time and you leave, that may well be all you end up with.)
posted by melissa may at 7:57 PM on January 6, 2006

You negotiated your compensation before you accepted the position. There's no reason you should have to renegotiate it now. State your case, and if they still balk at the $63, start looking for another job. Be polite, of course, but also realize that this is a serious "mistake" and if the employer doesn't realize that and make good on it, they are simply trying to take advantage of you. There will likely be many more "mistakes" in your future if you roll over. Take your shiny new certification and find someone who values it properly.
posted by spilon at 9:13 PM on January 6, 2006

should I rock the boat and insist on the raise?

What are you thinking of when you say "insist"? What happens if you insist and they say no? Demanding something (or any serious negotiation) requires that there are consequences if the other party doesn't do what you ask. Of course it might be possible to reason someone into fixing this problem (and you should explore that possibility first). But if they stick hard to their current position then, ultimately, if you're not willing to walk then they win.

There are possibly other lesser consequences you can use, specific to your situation, if you don't want to go that far (but still, as long as you're not willing to walk, you are in the weaker bargaining position -- all they have to do is hold out).

Depending on your situation, putting up with the current situation may be acceptable. And, on the other hand, I don't think it would be unreasonable to walk out (or use some other leverage, if such is available) if you don't get what they promised when you were hired . But if you "insist" and then do nothing when they refuse, you look dumb and may permanently damage your credibility.
posted by winston at 9:22 PM on January 6, 2006

Be sure you have an exit strategy in place. I rocked the boat over a similar issue, and ended up getting fired after months of increasingly hostile treatment from the entire management chain in the small software company I worked for. They all seemed like such nice people until I started asking about that promised salary increase...
posted by GoatCactus at 10:56 PM on January 6, 2006

Get it in writing. It's just too easy for there to be misunderstandings, even if everyone is operating in good faith. Your employers have just demonstrated that they won't stand by a verbal contract, so make sure that you have something to point to the next time there's a "misunderstanding".

And yes, I'd also insist on being given what you were promised. If they told you 60, going to 63, they owe you 60, going to 63.

Winston is correct. You need to be willing to walk away. And you should be willing to walk away from an employer who promises you $3k/yr and then doesn't deliver. Even if it is a mistake, do you want to be working for people who make $3k/yr mistakes at your expense and then don't fix them? I wouldn't be in a hurry to get rid of that dirty feeling, because that feeling is well founded.
posted by aneel at 11:07 PM on January 6, 2006

This isn't really an answer to what you asked, but: companies that "don't have contracts" are generally kinda sketchy. Even the 'happy happy we all love each other and do good things' companies. Because unless they're a TINY company (i mean, running-out-of-someone's-rec-room-tiny) having employee contracts is absolutely standard, makes them beyond reproach, and prevents misunderstandings by both the employer and the employee. There is no good reason for an honest company to avoid using contracts. There are only good reasons for dishonest companies to do so.

I'd bet that 3k discrepancy wasn't a mistake, no matter how nice your boss is. I vote that you start looking for something else, this problem could be the tip of an iceberg.

(Or: get a contract now, so that however the problem is to be fixed, it is put into writing. Detailed writing.)
posted by Kololo at 11:22 PM on January 6, 2006

There have been some good suggestions here.

Keep things simple: You were promised a raise under certain conditions (you pass your state boards), you met those conditions and now you expect them to meet theirs.

This is a fiscal issue, but more importantly a moral issue. You may be able to live on the $60K but if your attitude changes because you no longer trust them, then your happiness and your job output are sure to change.

You love working there. But your attitude was based on a trust that seems to have been violated by them. It's not your fault but theirs. That's a hard thing to fathom, but it happens all too often.

Take care of yourself by asking for what you were promised and by starting to look for another job. If they turn on you for this (and not value your contribution to the organization or your achievements) it only reinforces that this place is not being run well. Looking for another job is your insurance for standing up for yourself. Don't be an asshat about it --come across with integrity.

And next time take care of yourself by get promises like this in writing.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:34 AM on January 7, 2006

take them aside and sheepishly explain to them, apologizing many times, how it was a mistake for you to start working there and since there is no contract, you must quit. since you are underpaid, you can find more profitable work elsewhere, right?
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:31 AM on January 7, 2006

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