can I reopen negotiations on a job offer I already accepted?

A reader writes:

I accepted a job offer recently but have since learned that I will not be paid or compensated for overtime. The job is $45k plus $4k in bonus annually (if earned). This is the first big job I’ve had and feel like I missed an opportunity to negotiate the salary because I didn’t want to seem greedy. I feel like I could have negotiated the salary up to at least $53k (they really wanted me for the position and contacted me out of the blue without me even knowing about the position being open).

I have signed the work agreement two days ago but am still wondering can I safely ask if the salary is open for renegotiation since I am just learning that I am exempt from overtime. I was told that I would not be paid overtime even if i do end up having to work more than 40 hours a week (the job requires 75% travel and the travel is not included in the 40 hours of work). I was considering asking, “After further reviewing the position and now being informed that I cannot be paid for overtime, would you be open to negotiating my salary to 50K to compensate the possible overtime that I will likely be working in weeks to come? If that is not a possibility, I understand but I just wanted to take this opportunity and ask you to consider.”

You can read my answer to this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

Also, a note about my articles at Inc.: If you’re outside the U.S. or using an ad blocker, Inc. may ask you to register in order to read more than one article there. That’s because they otherwise aren’t able to earn any revenue from those page views, which they’re of course dependent on in order to continue to exist.

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. hayling*

    For #1, I think it would look rather uninformed to have assumed that the position was non-exempt and eligible for overtime. Jobs with 75% travel generally meet the criteria for exempt status.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, I think the biggest reason not to say “I assumed that it was non-exempt, and now in light of it being exempt I feel that the salary should be higher” is that the assumption seems like a huge oversight. Unless the difference in salary is the hill to die on (meaning the OP can afford to turn it down), they should probably just suck it up.

    2. Kat*

      ^absolutely this. I think it would look really out of touch to try and play that card.

      Moreover, asking for an 20% salary increase for your first job would be a stretch if you had negotiated from the start; AFTER you accepted the job? The may just pull the offer.

      1. some1*

        Yeah, my eyebrows when up at the “I feel like I could’ve got $53K if only I had negotiated” part. Being recruited out of the blue and them really wanting you doesn’t warrant “I can probably name my own salary” until you get to a much higher level.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I agree that OP really messed up. And not negotiating because you don’t want to appear greedy? That’s a huge mistake. Was the 75% travel disclosed ahead of time? Or was it merely couched as “some travel required”. I can only see renegotiating if the amount of travel was misrepresented.

      I do think it is a problem that 75% of the job involves travel that is non-compensated. Most places pay you when you are traveling, at least up to 8 hours per day. That means that the OP was severely lowballed. I’d check what a job like this paid minus the travel, times it by 4, and then come up with a salary figure. If it was more than $20k I might renege on the offer. This would be a permanent mark on the record, but better than such severe low salary. Remember, a lot of HR people try to use your current salary for computing future salary. Taking a significantly lower salary could affect future job offers.

      The other way to do it is to work for a year and then find a new job.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I do think it is a problem that 75% of the job involves travel that is non-compensated. Most places pay you when you are traveling, at least up to 8 hours per day.

        I’ve worked jobs in the past that have required travel (granted, not 75% of my job), but I was never compensated for the time, because I was exempt. I was reimbursed for travel expenses (hotel, flight, rental car, meals, etc.) but never for just the time.

        So, for example, if I had to travel somewhere out of state from Thursday to Sunday, there wouldn’t be any extra pay, and I would be essentially “working” (some of it travel, some of it just being at a work location and not cozy in my apartment) an extra 48 hours… but that’s how exempt positions work. Sure, workplaces can choose to give someone a comp day or an extra stipend, but they can also just say it’s part of the job.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Some jobs don’t pay for travel time, to be sure. But this is 75%!!! That means that OP is receiving 1/4 salary.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think 75% of the job is uncompensated–I think the OP is using “travel” to mean two different things (and I think she may not be clear on this difference), travel time and working away from home. The job doesn’t compensate for travel time outside of regular hours–that’s the no-OT thing. She *would* be paid for working away from home, because that’s the bulk of the job. So if she has to leave for Memphis on Sunday, she doesn’t get paid any extra, but her hours in Memphis for the week she’s there are a regular exempt workweek.

          2. Anonymous Educator*

            She will always receive 100% of her salary. There is just no extra compensation for travel.

            In all likelihood, this means either she’s away from home three weeks out of the month or constantly traveling nine months out of the year.

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                I don’t know if everyone feels this way, but the times I’ve had to travel for work, I’d much rather have spent the money to buy groceries or eat out near home than be far away and reimbursed. Plus it’s extra hassle (mental work) to keep track of all of the receipts and reimbursements.

                1. SystemsLady*

                  Usually you are issued a dedicated company credit card for this sort of job. Receipts, usually, but not much more than that.

                2. Anonymous Educator*

                  I’ve had only one job with a corporate credit card. Even then, I had to keep track of receipts. And it was an Am Ex (which not every place takes), so I often had to pay for stuff in cash or using my own personal card and then get reimbursed.

                3. HREscapee*

                  I worked a 75% travel job for four years. It means 4 days a week, you are not home.

                  I didn’t have an expensive car, because I only parked it at the airport, so I saved on a car payment. I did not eat out, I would often expense a trip to the grocery store for snacks and then eat out only one meal a day, often with my coworkers. I used my own card and got more than a million hotel points, so I have been traveling for free for the past two years since I left that job.

                  There are serious reimbursement perks that come with full time travel that do count. If I had used credit card points for statements, I could have had as much as $4000 in cash a year (though that is considered taxable income).

                  We all used personal cards so we could keep the points. I don’t know anyone who does this type of job who accepts the corporate card unless they are forced to.

          3. KH*

            They get paid when they travel on a workday. Sitting at a desk: get paid 8hrs. Sitting on a plane to wherever: 8hours.

            This is what exempt means. It doesn’t matter what they do, they get paid as if they work 52 weeks @ 8 hrs a day = ($45000 / 2080hrs) whether they are working or not (until they use up their paid leave).

  2. Not Karen*

    Hmm… I’m skeptical that #1 was in fact a case of “I was under the impression that the position was non-exempt” and not “I didn’t know what exempt means.”

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s pretty clear that the OP was just learning about this; she says this is her first big job, and her terminology is a little wonky. But it’s still legit to use #1 as your phrasing, as Alison suggests, same as it’s legit to say you’re looking for growth in a job interview rather than saying you burned your bridges.

  3. Ad Astra*

    OP also seems to have assumed that being non-exempt would have meant receiving overtime pay on a somewhat regular basis, which probably wasn’t realistic. Most companies try to keep non-exempt employees working exactly 40 hours per week except when the workload is unusually high. I would think most high-travel jobs are exempt in order to avoid paying huge amounts of overtime.

    1. fposte*

      I think OP just didn’t have much idea that exempt existed or what it meant, nor did she have much idea of how OT usually happens in non-exempt jobs. I think she assumed that if she had hours over 40, as they told her she’d have, she’d be paid for them as OT.

  4. Analyst*

    Isn’t the DOL considering raising the OT exemption from 23Kish to over 50K? If that ends up taking place, then OP will qualify for OT with her 45K wage.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      The OP and 99% of mall employees….it’s going to really shake things up for low paying salaried jobs, of which there are MANY.

      1. Winter is Coming*

        Yes, I agree it’s about time. I always thought that threshold was way to low for everything that being salaried involves. I think the new threshold is much more fair.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I agree. It doesn’t make sense to ask someone to work potentially unlimited overtime for $25,000 a year. That’s insane.

    2. Brett*

      The new minimum would be $47,892.
      The new rule will include bonuses and incentives as salary though, which would push OP over the EAP exemption minimum salary requirement.

      1. Analyst*

        So if OP doesn’t earn the bonus then OT should be paid out. But if OP does earn that bonus… no OT. OP I’m betting you’ll always get the bonus.

      2. fposte*

        The new minimum *may* be, anyway–just because it was proposed doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, or happen as proposed. (Interestingly, I’m seeing this calculated as $50,440 some places and $47,892 other places, I think because some people are calculating based on 2015 and some based on 2016.)

        1. Brett*

          I saw a few numbers too, so I went and looked up the rule proposed… And that’s when I saw that the rumored part about including bonuses was part of the rule that just closed commenting in September.
          (And the number in that one is $47,893.)
          The part still up in the air is how bonuses have to be paid. It sounds like it will be monthly, maybe quarterly, but definitely not annually to count. (And no makeup bonuses to top off people over the minimum.)

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      They’ll probably just bump her to the 55k and keep her exempt, otherwise the OT would be outrageous with all the travel.

  5. MissLibby*

    I would offer another option for #5. Some companies may have a multiple positions in the same classification/title and have a lot of turnover. I know where I work we have positions that are almost constantly advertised and filled, but there is just a lot of churn.

    1. Melissa*

      Along the same lines, my employer is somewhat understaffed for our division and we’re hiring a lot of people under the same title/classification so what looks like the same ad is up pretty much all the time for the last few months and probably will be for several months going forward. People are getting hired (in an organized and timely fashion), but we need to hire several more still.

  6. Meg Murry*

    Another reason for #5 is that they use a more generic job description for a position they hire a lot of. For instance, I worked for a company where the majority of the R&D staff (300+ people) had the title “researcher” (actual title hidden, but something along those lines) with I, II, Senior, etc appended to it. They might actually be hiring for 4 different “researcher” positions wanting 3-7 years experience – one with the caramel coatings group, another with the chocolate coatings group, etc. But they would put up only one general job description for “researcher” and then after phone screens would call people up and say “are you interested in interviewing for a position in caramel coatings and another in chocolate coatings?” and then bring the person in to meet with the hiring managers of those groups back to back.

    1. JessaB*

      Yeh, a lot of time they might have more than one job with the same title as well. They might be expanding by a whole teapot team and need 5 teapot technicians at one time. But Alison is also right, it’s really silly to pull the advert before you have someone in place, if the interviews fall through, you don’t have to re-list the thing.

  7. Brett*

    “they really wanted me for the position and contacted me out of the blue without me even knowing about the position being open”
    I have been rejected without even a phone interview for positions where the company actively recruited me for months. Just having them contact you out of the blue is not really that indicative of a desire to hire you.

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