my salary changed on my first day of work

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job for six months, working for a environmental nonprofit as an educator/administrator. When I was offered the position, it was made very clear to me that I would be non-exempt, which makes a big difference because there are three weeks each year when I work 24 hours/day, in addition to the fact I have never worked a mere 40-hour week in this role. Historically, this position had been exempt; however, with the clock ticking on the new overtime rule (that never actually took effect), the job was advertised and offered to me as hourly rather than salary.

Because of the promise of thousands of dollars in overtime each year, I did not negotiate pay when I accepted the offer; with overtime, my annual compensation seemed fair and in-line with other offers I had on the table. I accepted the offer and happily moved about 2,000 miles (with no relocation assistance), and found a place to live based on the amount of money I expected to make. Yes, lesson learned: always negotiate!

On my first day, my new boss sat me down and explained that I was going to be exempt after all. He offered no adjustment of my salary, and also informed me that my title had been downgraded from coordinator to specialist in order to make upward movement more possible (in other words, the title I was offered would require a promotion now). I was so flabbergasted in the moment that I said “okay.”

I brought the issue up a few days later, and tried to be reasonable in requesting that, at the very least, my title be restored (after all, titles are free!). While he listened well and showed empathy, he offered zero solutions to my frustration.

Three months later, I scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss this again, and this time I made it clear that the way this issue was being handled gave me serious pause about working for the organization long-term (which is a big deal, considering that the last two people in my role both quit in under six months). We had a great conversation, and he assured me that my pay would be increased after he checked in with his supervisor about it.

And then … two months of silence! When he finally did follow up, he told me that his boss wouldn’t let him increase my pay, but that I could have seven extra PTO days. I expressed gratitude for the follow-up and the vacation days, and he made it very clear that the title and the raise would come at my six-month review.

With my six-month review approaching, I’m hoping you have some guidance for how to continue to advocate for myself without sounding like a broken record. In our last conversation on the topic, my boss literally praised me for “being assertive without being a bitch” (professionalism is a whole separate issue here). I love my job and have a very good relationship with my boss, but I am extremely concerned that my raise will be postponed again or will be insultingly low. I’m prepared to make a strong case based on my accomplishments and unique skills, and I am also seriously considering resigning if my boss fails to come through again. How can I stand my ground without being overly aggressive?

Yeah, I think you need to be prepared to leave.

It’s possible that they didn’t originally realize how much this was screwing you over. They may not have been as focused on the overtime as you were. (Although they really should have figured that out.) But regardless, once you pointed out how much this changed your compensation, they should have gotten it.

But … did you explicitly say that? It’s really common not to react perfectly in the moment, especially when you’re taken off-guard. But ideally you would have said something from the start like, “I understand why you’ve reclassified the position to exempt, but this is a significant change to the compensation we agreed on. When I accepted the job at this salary, it was with the understanding that that overtime pay would add thousands to the salary each year. If that’s changing, we need to revisit the salary, because this is significantly lowering the pay I thought I was accepting.” (Maybe you did say something like that in the conversation a few days after the initial announcement? I’m not sure from your letter.)

And then after that, if they’d refused to budge, at that point ideally you’d have decided if you wanted the job under these new conditions — and whether you would have accepted it initially at this salary and title. That’s really hard to do objectively when you just moved 2,000 miles at your own expense … but in a way, it’s front-loading the pain rather than letting it drag out over months or even longer.

I think that’s what you’ve got to figure out now. If things stay as they are, do you want the job under these conditions? If not, what would it take to get you to stay reasonably happily there? Get really clear on that, so that you can convey it to your boss when you meet.

And then just be extremely straightforward: “As you know, I accepted the job thinking that with overtime, the compensation would be $X. On my first day, you told me the change to exempt meant the pay would actually be $Y. The title I’d accepted was also downgraded to one where I might not have accepted the job had I known that change was coming. I’ve tried to give you some time to work this out, but at this point it’s been six months. I really need to be earning the amount that we originally agreed to, at the title we agreed to. Can that happen in the next several weeks?”

If you get a clear-cut “yes, absolutely” (backed up by follow-through), then you can move forward. But if you get anything less than that, I’d be prepared to leave.

If you get promises that he’s working on it, that’s not enough. He’s had six months to work on it. It doesn’t take that long.

If he says his hands are tied, untie your own and leave.

And really, I’d start job searching right now, even before that conversation, both so that you aren’t starting from scratch later on and because it’ll probably help your confidence in this conversation to have taken concrete steps toward moving on.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 277 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Another Techie*

    In addition to all of Alison’s great advice, I’d ask, do you really want to work for the kind of person who would actually factually say ““being assertive without being a bitch”? Because that right there would be a giant deal-breaker for me, full stop, aside from the entirely unreasonable bait-and-switch about your pay. This is not a good place to work, and even if they do agree to raise your pay to what you’d initially expected, I think you should still consider looking for a new job anyway.

    1. Bookartist*

      This. After all, the difference between being a bitch and not being a bitch has zero to do with you and your actions, and everything to do with how he feels any particular day.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Yes. Also the more I think about it the more upset I get. He baited-and-switched LW, and is now using praise for not being a “bitch” as a tool to control and manipulate her out of demanding she get paid what he promised. Horrible.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Yes, yes, yes. OP, I don’t think this situation is salvageable, unfortunately. Because even if you do get the salary and title you originally agreed to, you’re still working for a jerk. I hate to say it, because I can imagine how much it must suck after everything you’ve done to get there, but…yeah.

          1. Jesca*

            Yep! And when those jerks give you that raise, it will likely be the last one you will get in a while. And they will thank you kindly for not being a bitch about it!

          2. Kyrielle*

            Still, if OP can get the raise and stick out another six months, that would make the job easier to explain. (Although “my title and compensation were changed on my first day on the job” is probably a good factual reason to be hunting – if anything I’d only wonder why it took six months to start trying to leave.)

            1. Megan Johnson*

              I think that’s pretty well explained away with the fact that they moved cross-country for the job. Understandable, to me at least.

        2. Artemesia*

          This. Start the job search and take a better offer whenever you get it EVEN IF they finally raise your salary. Bosses don’t accidentally screw people over like this. No one is oblivious to the bait and switch like this and if they could claim that 6 mos ago, they certainly can’t claim it now. In addition to this not being the job you accepted, they clearly want to manipulate you into a huge pay cut by praising your relatively passive acceptance of being screwed over. They are not people you want to work for even if you prevail at this point.

          Look for a job while you have the luxury of having this one and move as soon as you get a better offer even if they come back with everything you asked for on this job.

        3. Greg*

          I had the same reaction. His use of the word suggests that he’s operating under a variation of the Madonna-whore complex, where there are “good girls” who accept whatever indignities their employer piles on them, and “bitches” who complain. The implication in his comment is, “You’re one of the good girls, aren’t you?”

          If it was a one-off comment by a boss who was otherwise treating her fairly, it would still be an issue, but perhaps not a dealbreaker. But considering that he said it at the same time he’s jerking her around over salary, I consider it a HUGE red flag.

          Sorry that you’re in this situation, OP, but it sure sounds like YBSAIGTC.

          1. Greg*

            Incidentally, years ago I was talking to my team, which consisted of two men and one woman. The woman was upset about something relatively tangential to our main project, and I said, “OK, let’s set that aside in the Bitch Box for now.” To this day, I’m still not sure where I got that phrase from, but I meant it in the sense of “complaint box”.

            Nonetheless, as soon as it left my mouth, I realized how it might have come across, and immediately apologized and clarified. My employee laughed and said, “Don’t worry, if I thought you were actually calling me a bitch, I would *definitely* have let you know.” Still, it was a good lesson to be really careful with language in professional situations and not leave yourself open to misinterpretations. Remember the DC city official who lost his job after using the word “niggardly”. Sure, he was treated unfairly for using a word that has no etymological connection to the n-word, but if you can just as easily use a different word that won’t offend anyone, why risk it?

        4. zora*

          Yes, this. There is literally nothing she can do to not “be a bitch” at this point… if she stands her ground, no matter what she says or how she says it, he is going to consider that “being a bitch”. He is totally manipulating her and I want to punch this guy in the face.

      2. K.*

        Exactly. The minute he feels like OP steps out of line or asserts herself too much, she’ll be a bitch in his eyes, and he’ll probably say so in a thinly veiled, dog-whistle sort of way. Let’s not forget that she’s in the position of having to assert herself because HE put her there.

    2. 123456789101112 do do do*

      I completely agree with this. Also, he WILL consider you a bitch after this conversation, whether he says it or not. And that’s okay! Being an advocate for yourself is good! It does not matter if he thinks you’re a bitch or not.

      1. many bells down*

        “Bitch” almost invariably means “I’m not doing a thing a man wanted me to”, in my experience. Whether that’s quietly accepting my pay cut or his catcall. I’m okay with “bitch”.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Actually, BITCH means Babe In Total
          Control of Herself.

          If someone calls you that then respond “you betcha”. Own it.

          Especially since he’s trying to equate pushing back on injustice with not being nice.

          1. Liz2*

            No, it doesn’t, and no that’s not how it’s intended, and no I don’t want to own that.

            I will respond, to make sure it’s known how Inappropriate that is, but not by trying to say it wasn’t what it was meant to be.

            1. JaneB*

              YES. I don’t see why I should be expected to reframe it like this and basically make the comment OK.

              It’s an insult in this context, and unprofessional, and I will respond to that intent.

            2. Engineer Girl*

              I don’t think you understand what it’s like being the only woman in a male dominated industry.
              Bold comebacks get points. Complaining to HR loses alliances. Certainly if you think the person will listen than tell them you think it’s inappropriate. But my experience is that anyone using the word “bitch” is not someone that will listen.

              1. Kate*

                I do. I’ve worked in both negative and positive male dominated environments, and what you’re talking about is a negative one. Snappy comebacks might gain you points with your coworkers, but only up until you disagree with something they want or said. They may keep the problem coworker from calling you a bitch again, but it will also keep them from wanting to work with you if they can help it, and thus could deny you some opportunities.

                I’m not judging you at all. I’ve been in these jobs, and I know you have to do what you can to survive. So if reclaiming that word is what helps you, more power to you. But the men you want to make alliances with already know that it’s inappropriate, and a place that allows ANYONE to call a colleague that without repercussions is probably not a great place to work.

              2. Tuxedo Cat*

                I am in a male-dominated industry, and I have female friends who are too. Some of us have been the only woman at times and the only woman of color at that. “Bold comebacks” have come with repercussions that are legal but still harmful. It can work for some people, but I’m not sure it would work for very men.

              3. Jadelyn*

                The way *you’ve chosen* to handle gendered slurs at work is fine – FOR YOU. That doesn’t make it the One True And Right Way To Do It for all women in the workplace. If you wanna reclaim it, rock on! But you can’t just present it as “actually it’s a good thing”, then argue that “you don’t understand what it’s like” when other women say “I disagree”.

            3. PB*

              Totally agree. Referring to a woman as a “bitch” is never okay, and I’m not going to pretend that it is.

              As a side note, I also wouldn’t be thrilled with being called a “babe.”

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I find “bitch” super offensive, and I’m not really into reclaiming it. That said, one of my favorite responses—and only in very specific circumstances—is kind of like Engineer Girl’s. It’s something along the lines of (after being called a b—), “Not your bitch, though” and walking away.

              Stunningly effective, but I don’t recommend it as a normal or common response… It should be an extraordinary response to an extraordinary situation (someone having the gall to call you that word in the workplace). Although frankly, ideally one is not working someplace where people regularly call others “b—-.”

              1. Merci Dee*

                I only had to say it once, but once was enough . . . . guy at an old job was trying to put me in my place, and called me a bitch because it had totally upset some other girls in the office in the past. I adjusted my glasses a little while I slowly looked him up and down, and then I smiled and replied, “That’s bitch-on-wheels, to you.” I thought he was going to swallow his tongue, but he never pulled that trick again.

          2. PatPat*

            Being referred to as a “babe” in a professional setting is no better than bitch. It might be even worse.

    3. Aeryn Sun*

      This – that phrase alone would make me at minimum go to HR to complain and if that wasn’t resolved I’d leave. That’s not a great environment.

      1. Juliecatharine*

        All of this!! OP you are working for slime balls. Get out of there and learn from this. It’s not bitchy to protest being screwed over. This company royally screwed you and is making you wait and beg for the money and title you accepted. They don’t deserve decent employees, run.

    4. TheFormerAstronomer*

      Right? Because the moment you do something which displeases him or argue against him in a way he doesn’t like, all you’ll do is prove (to him) that you are in fact Just A Bitch. This is 100% a no-win scenario in employment or personal relationships.

    5. Czhorat*

      “A bitch” in this context is not only unprofessional but a clearly gendered insult which would not be levied at a man.

      Work on your resume. Start applying elsewhere. If you get a decent offer, leave and don’t look back.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Hard agree. OP, you mentioned professionalism is an issue. It sounds like your employer has other, significant and unattractive problems, including at best, willful ignorance towards your situation and why what they did is problematic, or at worst, sexist attitudes and active conniving to make it so.

      I am not impressed with your boss or your employer, and I don’t think liking your boss is going to change him. He’s complimenting you by saying you’re “not a bitch”? Seriously, take a beat and think about what kind of person would feel comfortable saying that to their subordinate. And who is willing to say that when it comes down to something as serious as someone’s compensation and survival? You’re only going to remain “not a bitch” until you push him on something you want that he doesn’t want to give you. I’d strongly encourage you to actively explore other options/employers.

      You don’t want to make the threat that you’ll leave unless you’re going to follow through, and you’re going to need to put yourself in a position to follow through. Please don’t wait on putting yourself in a position to follow through—regardless of the outcome of your six-month review, it’s going to be worth having cultivated other leads.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, it’s a nicely insidious piece of strategy, really. It’s the work equivalent of “You’re a cool girl, not like the other girls with their *demands* and their *needs*.”

        1. Jadelyn*

          I was just coming here to say this. “Assertive without being a bitch” is the same kind of conditional acceptance as “You’re not like other girls” – with the implication that the second you set a toe out of line (and “out of line” will literally just mean “doing anything that displeases me”) you lose your conditional access to the Cool Girl status and become one of the bitches/”those girls”. It’s never a compliment, not really. It’s a way to control women’s behavior with a combination carrot and stick.

    7. SignalLost*

      I would start job searching the moment my boss said that to me. We would not be having a conversation about a raise or a title change, because I would not be working there. OP, this is a) not someone who respects you, and b) someone who is evidently fine with baiting and switching (in the sense that there is clear evidence he thinks this is all right.)

    8. Agatha31*

      Yeah, was going to ask if he literally said that because if so, just… Run. The fuck. Away. Which sucks given what op has put into this job already but that phrase and how very much it tells you about what kind of person this guy is…. Just, wow. WOW.

  2. Mike C.*

    It’s possible that they didn’t originally realize how much this was screwing you over. They may not have been as focused on the overtime as you were.

    Not a chance. They’re the ones writing the paychecks and they know quite well how much overtime is costing them. The OP is getting taken advantage of and needs to find a new place to work now.

    Also, The fact that a demotion lead from being non-exempt to exempt makes no sense what so ever. No way in heck are they acting in an honest and good faith manner.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This. The non-exempt vs exempt thing is what it is, but the title readjustment going along with it makes it sketchy.

      1. Mike C.*

        But how does a demotion lead to exempt status without breaking the law? I’m racking my brain here and I can’t think of a way.

        1. Sarah*

          My sense is that the job was advertised when the rule change for exempt/non-exempt salaries looked like it was going to happen (in which case they would have had no choice but to classify the position as non-exempt), but then the rule change did not end up happening and the company backpedaled.

            1. Snorlax*

              I don’t see anywhere in the letter where it says the original job remained non-exempt. Am I missing it?

              1. Mike C.*

                I don’t see anywhere where the original job changed.

                Positions where the work and role of the job don’t change don’t have changes in their exemption status.

                1. H.C.*

                  Maybe that could be part of their reason for LW’s title demotion as well – where specialist included duties that would keep LW in exempt status, but whereas a coordinator would be a non-exempt position.

                  (Also, I’m getting thrown off by the titles here – most places I’ve worked specialist is a step above coordinator.)

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Mike is saying that if the actual substance of the job did not change, then the classification cannot be changed under the FLSA. That’s relatively accurate—you can’t just go around classifying jobs as exempt/non-exempt, willy nilly, without meeting tests to support the designation.

                1. fposte*

                  Two thoughts: one, obviously you need a reason to change the classification to exempt, but do you to change it to non-exempt, since that’s the default and most protective? Two, I’m not sure the actual position ever did change–it seems like that they were anticipating changing it but that what ended up being available was the same exempt position they’d had before the proposed threshold raise.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @fposte, I made the mistake of responding before reading the whole thread (yikes!). I agree with all the exposition that came about the classification process :)

            2. fposte*

              Not sure what you mean by the “original job”–it doesn’t sound like the position title the OP was initially hired for exists anymore, and I’m not seeing that it would necessarily remain non-exempt even if it did.

              1. Mike C.*

                Original job == job that was offered before the start date.

                Based on the rules for exemption, I cannot see how a demotion would lead to the loss of exempt status. One generally loses exempt status based on increased pay, increased responsibilities, increased authority/autonomy, work type and so on. Pay was decreased, nothing said about responsibilities/authority/autonomy and the work didn’t change. Therefore, the exempt status should not have changed either.

                1. Natalie*

                  It’s possible that both positions met the duties criteria to be exempt. I don’t think that’s actually the case because this place sounds shady, but it is feasible to be demoted from one exempt position to another exempt position.

                2. Natalie*

                  There’s two prongs to exemption – duties and salary – and both have to be met for a job to be exempt from overtime.

                  At the time LW was initially offered the job, the salary threshold was going to be increased. So the job may have passed the duties test but would not pass the new salary test, and they decided to make it non-exempt rather than raise the salary. Then, once the new salary threshold was postponed, the job now passes both exemption tests and can be exempt again.

                3. fposte*

                  I don’t think the demotion had anything to do with the change of classification, though; if the rules change had come through, both this title and other would probably have been non-exempt, and without them they’re both exempt. (Or being treated as exempt; I’m not entirely convinced they’d pass.)

            3. Natalie*

              The original job may have been exempt on a duties basis and only failed on the new salary threshold. Thus when that rule was postponed, they could reclassify it.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          The change in title didn’t “lead to” the change in exempt status. The law not changing did. The change in title just occurred at the same time.

          The change in pay is somewhat defensible. They (and everybody else) expected the law to change, and at the last minute it didn’t.

          The change in title was just a lie in the job offer.

          1. Mike C.*

            Nothing about this situation is defensible.

            Furthermore, the exempt status of the original title didn’t change, and we have no information that the exempt status of the new lower position changed, only that by taking the demotion (but no change in work!!) the status changed from non-exempt to exempt.

            That doesn’t make sense and the rules change can’t explain that.

            1. fposte*

              I’m not seeing that the exempt status of the original title didn’t change, though–where are you finding that? I get that we don’t actually know how Original Title is classified because nobody in this letter is in the role, but I don’t think we know that it’s still technically non-exempt, either.

                1. my two cents*

                  Echoing Mike C-
                  We know the original role that was offered, prompting the move, was non-exempt and eligible for overtime.

                  Given that the duties themselves did not change for the posted role, and in fact was a demotion in title which usually prompts for non-exempt, the ‘new role’ should also be non-exempt.

                2. fposte*

                  No, we know how the original job *was going to be* classified; we don’t know how it’s classified now that the rules change didn’t happen.

                3. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

                  One possible explanation is that the original job qualified to be exempt but they chose to keep it non-exempt, which is legal. The lesser title is also qualified to be exempt and they are choosing to go with that.

              1. Magenta Sky*

                The title is irrelevant to exempt status. They can give the minimum wage burger flipper who is still in high school the title of “Grand Poobah Of The World,” and he’s still making minimum wage flipping burgers. I’ve known restaurant owners who called themselves “chief cook and bottle washer.”

                The only thing that matters is that, according to the letter, the job offer was for non-exempt, because of the upcoming change in the law, and that was changed because the law didn’t change. That’s what the letter said.

                The title change is not at all connected, except perhaps in the minds of the people trying to justify screwing over a new hire.

            2. Sue Wilson*

              The assumption is that under the old (current) rules of exemption, neither job would have to be non-exempt, and so the employer would classify them as exempt. However, since the salary rules for exemption were about to be raised, and the salary was not high enough (for either job) to meet exemption status under the new (pending) rules, the job would have to be non-exempt and was posted that way. But since the new rules are no longer certain, the employer is going to classify the job as they would have if there were no pending exempt rule changes. That does make sense.

              The refusal to raise the salary in response to the change in exemption and the random demontion is deplorable, however.

              1. Mike C.*

                I still have a very difficult time believing this is the reason because six months puts us back in February and it was clear in late November (and certain in late January) that this rule wasn’t ever going to happen. Maybe that is the actually the case, but I really think people are bending over backwards to justify the actions of a company that hasn’t eared such a defense to begin with.

                1. my two cents*

                  well, and no one thought to tell LW about the change before they moved across the country for the job?!

                  Naw dude. Bait-n-switch

                2. Natalie*

                  Well, only speaking for myself, but explaining that this is potentially legal is not the same thing as justifying the company’s actions. They’re behaving like assholes. That doesn’t mean it’s against the law.

                3. fposte*

                  @Natalie–yes, this is where I am. I do think there’s the possibility that the job is misclassified, but just because such jobs often are, not because of the title change.

                4. Jadelyn*

                  +1 to Natalie – Mike, you said you couldn’t see how it was *legal*. People addressing ways it could be technically legal aren’t arguing that it was handled well, aren’t justifying it. The company has handled this very poorly – that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily broken any laws. That’s the part many of us are addressing, not the morality of it. They’re being jerks who pulled a bait-and-switch on the OP, that seems pretty clear. It doesn’t mean their actions are illegal.

                5. Natalie*

                  @ fposte, I’m inclined to agree it’s probably misclassified, but if I was the LW I’d rather sink my time into GingTFO because I don’t trust this company. I don’t really think they’re operating in good faith, and getting the job reclassified ultimately won’t do anything about that.

                6. Mike C.*

                  Ok, maybe that was a bit strong but given the preponderance of evidence that we have, I’m going to say the the OP should seriously look into their exempt classification.

                7. Mike C.*

                  @Natalie – it would be a great F you on the way out, and help her coworkers at the same time. Dropping a dime to the state labor board won’t take up that much time.

                8. Natalie*

                  @ Mike, sure, on the way out I think contacting the labor board is totally fine and might help. I just wouldn’t pursue reclassification *in lieu of* looking for another job.

                9. fposte*

                  @Natalie–oh, totally agreed. It’s hard enough in with a decent employer to tactfully negotiate a misclassification, but this is–well, it’s the kind of place where I can imagine them asking the OP to make dinner for 20 during the job interview.

                10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Mike, I think it’s possibly for the company to be jerking OP around and for the move to be legally defensible. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but as others have noted, the change in salary requirements could have been the deciding factor (as opposed to duties).

                  And you know that there’s often a lag between when Alison receives a letter and when her response posts (and the lag varies considerably based on the content of the letter, whether Alison is moving or getting stellar book deals, etc.). I don’t think it makes sense to calculate six months based on the time that a letter runs, and then suggest that there’s no way this whole thing went down during the overtime rule shift.

              2. my two cents*

                you’re saying that it was originally only non-exempt because the salary would have failed the ‘exempt test’ on salary had the new regulations taken effect?

                1. Magenta Sky*

                  That is what the letter implies. Or, at least, what the letter writer seems to have been told.

                  Legally defensible, to a degree (other than breaking promises that people have made major life changes based on, which might arguably be fraudulent, but good luck getting a jury to agree). But like I said, I’d have walked on the spot.

            3. CAA*

              The job duties and the salary qualify the position as exempt under the current rules. Title is irrelevant, they can rename any job at any time without affecting its exempt status in any way. The fact that the OP perceives the title adjustment as a demotion is also not relevant to determining whether the position is exempt under the law.

              It’s clear from the letter that the company is paying somewhere between $23,660 and $47,476. They expected the minimum exempt salary to be $47,476 by the time she started and they don’t want to pay that much, so they advertised the job as non-exempt. However, the minimum exempt salary did not increase after all, and since they do pay more than $23,660 and the job duties meet the test, they were able to make her exempt.

              It’s entirely legal, but it’s definitely lousy.

                1. Elsajeni*

                  We don’t necessarily know how long the letter’s been in Alison’s queue, how long the application and interview process for the job was, or how precise that “6 months” is, so I don’t think it’s necessarily that clear-cut that the timing doesn’t fit this explanation. But either way, it doesn’t matter — the OP says that the job has historically been classified as exempt. Assuming on that basis that it meets the duties test* and, since the new rule didn’t come into effect, the $23,660 salary test, it’s perfectly legal for them to continue classifying it as exempt, even if they’re dicks about it.

                  * Yes, obviously, this is an assumption and they may have been misclassifying it in the past as well, but I don’t think there’s anything in the OP’s letter to suggest that that must be the case.

                2. CAA*

                  It’s only been 8 months since the new rule was stayed by the courts. If they advertised in Sept/Oct and she interviewed and accepted by early Dec (which was right after the stay and it’s entirely possible the company hadn’t yet decided what to do about it) for a job to start Jan 3 after the holidays, and she wrote to Alison at the end of June and Alison published the letter a month later on August 1, I don’t really see a problem with the timing.

                  None of this is offsetting the crappy way they’ve treated her. I’m only quibbling with the message I’m getting from your posts that she must be misclassified because they decided she’s exempt after all.

                3. fposte*

                  @CAA–yeah, I think the title change is obscuring the situation, when it really doesn’t make any difference (which is why it was foolish of the org to do it). She was hired to do the work she’s doing; it was going to be non-exempt, but now it’s exempt because it’s still legal for it to be. Sucks, but isn’t illegal.

                4. Turtle Candle*

                  Yep, I sent a letter and it was posted three months later. (Not a complaint–Alison is a busy woman!) So time calculations are necessarily estimates, not proof.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Exempt status doesn’t have anything to do with titles, is the thing – it has to do with the actual job duties meeting certain tests. If position 1, a higher-level position by title, does X, Y, and Z, but position 2, a lower-level title, does X, Z, and A, if A is something that would make the position qualify for exempt status, then position 2 would qualify while position 1 wouldn’t, and no law would have been broken. It’s not likely to ever legitimately fall out like that absent a company deliberately organizing their titles and duties in order to keep specific people exempt, I’ll grant you, but it’s technically possible.

          Additionally, and more plausibly, there’s nothing that *requires* that employers ever classify any job as exempt. You *could* have your entire C-suite be hourly employees, legally speaking. It’s a stupid thing to do most of the time, since people at a certain level work too many hours for that to be practical without bankrupting the company with their overtime, but it’s *legal* to make anyone non-exempt.

          Meaning, that you could conceivably have a situation where BOTH the higher- and lower-level jobs qualify for exemption status based on their job duties, but the organization *chooses* to keep the higher one hourly and make the lower one be exempt instead. It would be super weird, and should make the state labor board/DoL side-eye the organization and take a closer look at all their exempt/non-exempt distinctions because the company is probably massaging their job descriptions and duties tests in order to misclassify people, but not inherently illegal.

    2. The Vulture*

      Also, I loooooove that they demoted her to “make upward movement more possible”. Hey, how great is it going to feel when you get promoted into this job you thought you already had? That’s going to be suuuuper motivating for you. Anyways, get to work! You want to earn that promotion, don’t you?

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s kind of like how my last boss decided to get rid of the 401(k) match during the recession to “save us from the risks of the market”.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, I thought the same thing. “Now OP, if you work really hard and get lucky, you might, one day, get the job we hired you for”. That’s…not a promotion. In fact, it’s actually closer to a punishment that you might be able to undo.

      3. Ann O'Nemity*

        Maybe the boss is thinking that a promotion would open the door for a salary increase.

        (I’m not defending the boss, just trying to come up with some explanation besides asshole.)

          1. Artemesia*

            This. If it was to make her promotion to a position that pays more possible then, well pay her for that position now. These people have calculatively cheated the OP and think as a compliant woman she will put up with it. She needs to leave as soon as she can regardless of what they offer later.

        1. Snark*

          “(I’m not defending the boss, just trying to come up with some explanation besides asshole.)”

          A lot of people seem to think that every debate needs a devil’s advocate. Why?

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        My jaw dropped.

        And I do get, LW, how in the moment your reaction could be a goggle-eyed “… oh.” But that is an absolutely ludicrous argument. If your boss and his bosses didn’t all give themselves demotions at the same time (“wheeeeeeeee, now we have something to work for”) then you know how serious they were about the reasoning they gave you.

      5. Jadelyn*

        My grandboss tried to make me feel better about being paid at the very bottom of the salary range for my position by saying that it “left plenty of room for upward movement”. If you’re giving someone something lower than they had reasonably expected, don’t try to give it a silver lining by saying “but in the future you might actually get what we implied we’d give you!” That’s just an insult to everyone’s intelligence.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Except it doesn’t, because there’s usually limits on how much upward movement can happen at a time. My first Silicon Valley job, there were three of us who were all fresh out of college from much cheaper parts of the country, and the hiring manager had bought his house in the 70s so he had no clue what the cost of living was. So we had extremely foolish answers when asked about our “salary requirements” – it was the early 90s, no way to research it. I got 50% over what I was making in Texas and thought it was awesome! Not so much – the cheapest apartment I could find took over half my take-home.

          Well, the CEO found out when we’d been there about 2 years and really wanted to just make up the difference immediately, but the rules only let her give us max possible raises at the smallest possible intervals. Took over a year to get us caught up.

          1. Jadelyn*

            That’s a fair point – my org *can* authorize salary adjustments, but it’s really hard to get the okay to do so, and aside from that you’re limited to the regular 2-5% COLA each year. So “room for upward movement” in this sense just means “it’ll be 10 years before you run out of room for COLAs within the salary range.” And if I’m still in this exact job in 10 years…yeah I won’t be.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This was particularly jaw-dropping for me. Do bosses realize how freaking insulting it is to say something like that to someone? I have to think you have to be in a bit of an echo chamber if you don’t get how tone-deaf it is.

    3. Another person*

      Yeah that’s the worst part. They waited until this person moved 2,000 miles across the country to tell her this and have been stringing her along for six months. It sounds like an intentional bait and switch to me. Probably not a coincidence the predecessors lasted less than 6 months.

      1. KHB*

        The part about the predecessors makes me think that this doesn’t have all that much to do with the overtime rule – these people just find ways to screw over their employees as a matter of course, regardless of the circumstances.

      2. AJ*

        Exactly what I was thinking. I’m guessing the predecessors also were strung along with empty promises, and when the six-month assessment came along and were told the same old shit, they left.

        If they are willing to do this to employees, what are the rest of the employer’s practices like?

    4. paul*

      Yeah, I can’t come up with a way that doing that to a person *isn’t* screwing them over, and I can’t imagine an organization being so callous/inept as to not recognize it.

    5. Czhorat*


      I know someone who willingly took a demotion from an exempt to non-exempt position in order to be paid overtime. Positions which pay hourly are, in my experience, always lower-level than those that pay overtime.

      They gave a demotion in title, no increase in pay, and changed the pay rules to those of a higher-level job. This is really, REALLY bad behaviour.

    6. Snark*

      Seconded, or thirded or fifthed or whatever. Nonprofits are not exactly known for respecting a healthy salary:effort ratio. There’s no chance this wasn’t a considered and premeditated screwing. Which is why I advocate OP just take this as a good opportunity to exit and trash them on Glassdoor.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Yes I think this is all a glimpse as to why others haven’t made it 6 months before leaving.

      I’m afraid this pay situation may be a sign of things to come with this company.

    2. Melissa Shumake*

      Exactly. I’d make sure to leave a glassdoor review after leaving, hopefully you’ll save someone else the pain

    3. CityMouse*

      Oh yes. This company clearly has serious serious issues. I would not be surprised if the others had a similar or identical story. Run.

    4. Infinity Anon*

      That comment is what makes me thing that they will just keep stringing the OP along. They have a pattern of not retaining employees and they went back on an agreement with the OP already once it was too late for the OP to easily back out. When you combine the two facts, the future does not look promising with this company.

    5. K.*

      HUGE red flag. Once, OK, life happens, maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Twice is an indicator that the problem is with the company.

    6. Xie*

      It sounds to me almost as though they may have pulled exactly the same thing on the previous employees, given the timing.

  3. Amazed*

    How would one answer the ‘why’d you leave your last job after only six months’ question in interviews to come, without sounding bitter about OR minimizing what happened here?

    1. kkcf*

      I’d say something like “Unfortunately after I relocated to City X to take the job the salary and title were changed to be lower than what I had agreed upon.”

      I think any good employer would understand why you wanted to leave!

    2. CityMouse*

      I think “the company changed compensation levels significantly after I had already started” is honest, does not sound judgy but clear shows how bad this place is.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      “On my first day of employment, my employer changed the terms of my position and salary from what we had agreed upon when I accepted the role. I stayed for six months because I believed they were working to rectify the situation. When it was clear that this would not happen, I decided to look for other opportunities.”

      1. HRJeanne*

        This is a perfect response. Just be straightforward and truthful. This is an appalling situation, and any reasonable hiring manager will understand that from this statement alone.

    4. Land Sir Veyer*

      “I left the job because the position, responsibilities, and compensation were not what had been represented during the interview. After 6 months of promises to bring them in line, it had become apparent that the former company was not operating in good faith.”

    5. CAA*

      “Unfortunately, they have been unable to pay the salary they originally offered me and they also changed the job title after I accepted the offer.”

      Any decent hiring manager is going to understand that if you are not getting paid what you were promised, that is a very significant issue. As a hiring manager myself, I don’t even care if you say this with a bitter tone. It’s ok to feel bitter about getting shafted. That’s only human, and I like to work with humans, not robots!

      What I do care about is that you aren’t going to let that bitterness and distrust carry over into the new job I’m hiring you for. If you go on and on about how unfair this was, or act like my company must be as dishonest as the one you are leaving, that would be a concern. Recognize that just because something bad happened to you one time doesn’t mean that everyone else is out to get you.

      1. Nicotene*

        Yeah I don’t see any problem with this. As long as you don’t sound like you’re mired in this and can’t get over it, it’s perfectly understandable: the deal didn’t turn out to be what you had been told, so you had to start looking. I think most employers would be sympathetic.

  4. Andrew*

    A tough situation and one that many of us can relate to. I also had a ‘surprise’ when I started new job a few years ago. Not fun!

    I second Alison’s advice to start looking for a new job right away. You want to maximize your leverage in the upcoming six-month negotiation — if it looks like they’re going to jerk you around some more, walk away and take the new job!

    Good luck. :)


    1. Artemesia*

      Even if it looks like they are going to come through at 6 mos, walk away and take the new job. There is no good future at this company even if you prevail in the short run.

  5. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    “being assertive without being a bitch”

    I’m sorry.


    Even if they were paying you the originally agreed upon salary and eveif you had your original agreed upon title this attitude ALONE should make you run fast and run far. Count yourself lucky, you’ve seen the red flags before you invested more time and emotion into this place. Get out yesterday.

    1. Kalamet*

      Agreed. If my boss said that I’d be furious. It’s gendered, inappropriate, and really doesn’t sound like a compliment.

      1. sometimeswhy*

        LW – Not only is this not a compliment, it is a warning. Your boss has warned you that you are to not (in his estimation, whatever that means on any given day) be a bitch. Are you already treading a little more lightly? Are you already worried that if you continue to advocate for yourself, you’ll step over that line? Then it worked.

    2. CityMouse*

      This guys is just the worst. Seriously, how dare he. He screws over OP and then has the fault say something that implies someone is a “bitch” if they object to being screwed over. What an absolute and complete asshole.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup. It’s such an offensive mind-f*** it made my head (figuratively) explode.

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      Yes! OP is being congratulated for successfully walking a line that is *extremely* fine, and also invisible, and also happens to be constantly moving and completely arbitrary.

      Next time a situation like this comes up, I bet the boss’ response will be that OP was either “too bitchy” or “not assertive enough” (and I’m going to lay money on “bitchy”). But hey, she did it once before, so she obviously CAN walk this line if she tries hard enough! So then she’ll be encouraged to keep trying, but if only she could be as good as she was that one other time. Ugh.

    4. Justin*

      Yeah I saw that and I was like “wait hold on there what wait whatttt.”

      It’s weird, and annoying, when we encounter these moments of bigotry that are, at the same time, intended to be some sort of bonding. “You’re not one of the bad members of your group!”

      1. Decima Dewey*

        This. And assertive in this context means OP did make an effort, and not being a bitch means the effort did not succeed.

  6. Lisa*

    Get outta there before the three weeks of 24/7! You were counting on lots of overtime and they are counting on a freebie.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Hell Yeah – then please OP come back and let us know what happened. Best wishes to you finding an awesome new job.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      If you are not out before the 24/7, you need to pull back and work much less those weeks. If some things don’t get done, then they don’t get done. It is not unreasonable that your commitment to this company has been diminished by their reduced commitment to you.

  7. RVA Cat*

    How is it even possible to work literally 24 hours a day for 3 weeks out of the year? Are they trying to kill you?!

    1. CityMouse*

      You certainly would.not be giving your best work. My dad had to do crazy shift like that when he was a medical intern but but they were not continuous, you had breaks between thrm. One time, driving home from one of those the car engine caught on fire and my dad was too tired to notice (I am glad there is push back on those, that cannot be good for patient care).

      1. CityMouse*

        Hard to say, there was that finance intern in London who straight up died after working 3 days straight.

      2. LabTech*

        I was thinking (hoping) environmental fieldwork of sorts, with the 24 hours including camping on-site.

        1. Mona Lisa*

          Yeah, my thought was something like leading wilderness camp sessions or something where the LW would be working most of the day and on-call/on-site in the evenings to handle emergencies.

    2. MK*

      Possibly it means that the worker will have to work very long hours and also be available to solve potential problems the rest of the time.

    3. Antilles*

      I’m presuming it’s one of the following:
      1.) You’re working heavy hours and ‘on-call’ the rest of the time. If the phone rings while you’re not actively working, you’re expected to be able to jump on it and respond immediately – but when it isn’t, you’re able to shower, cook dinner, sleep, run a quick errand, etc.
      2.) It’s on site work. So the actual work effort is a 12-hour shift, then you have 12 hours ‘off’, but those off hours are at the site itself and you’re technically ‘on call’ for major issues.
      3.) It’s not actually 3 straight weeks, but more like a shift situation where it’s 24 hours on, then 24 off, then 24 on, etc.
      What I don’t believe is that it’s actually 168 straight hours of active working for three straight weeks because the human body simply Does Not Work Like That. Wikipedia says the scientifically documented world record for longest time awake was about 11 days and by the end of it, the guy was so out of it that he couldn’t even count numbers without forgetting what he was doing.

    4. Government Worker*

      The OP mentions that it’s an environmental education nonprofit. I assumed that meant that OP would be in the field doing something like leading a 3-week canoeing trip or being an Outward Bound leader or something. It’s not literally working 24/7, but it’s on-call, on-site for that time, and it’s reasonable to assume that an hourly employee would get paid for all waking hours of the trip, and possibly sleeping hours, too.

      1. sstabeler*

        actually, for a situation like that, you HAVE to be paid your sleeping hours too, as I understand it. As a rule of thumb, if you have to be on-site, you HAVE to be paid. if you’re on-call on-site, I’m 99% sure it’s considered equivalent to actually being at work for the purposes of minimum wage and overtime (I know it is for minimum wage- I’m not sure about overtime)

  8. Texas Pecan*

    Wait the Coordinator position was exempt but now you’re a Specialist working over 40 hours a week. Are the job duties exactly the same? I’m trying to find an FLSA OT violation here… I know it’s not in job title alone but the whole situation is really crappy. I want to see you get your original title, compensation and back pay. Have you spoke to an employment attorney?

  9. Myrin*

    “If he says his hands are tied, untie your own and leave.”

    What a wonderfully poetic sentence, Alison, and one that holds true in many a situation – I’ll definitely remember this!

  10. Nicotene*

    The good news is, this is still experience that counts on your resume (maybe you can request that they let you list the title you originally accepted…?) and you’ve already moved – hopefully to a place you enjoy and want to be. These things can be assets in your search to find a better job in your new location. I think if you really want things to change, you have to walk into the 6 month review meeting prepared to leave. In my experience, they will be able to tell what a hard line this is for you by your attitude somehow. [not recommending you quit on the spot if you don’t hear what you want to hear, recommending that you start looking now and mentally plan to leave asap unless they really turn it around]. Journalism – tough field.

    1. TootsNYC*

      except it’s experience at that lower title, and no, it doesn’t sound as if they’re willing to let our OP use the original title–she already pushed on that (titles are free!) and they refused.

      Yes, job-hunt now, and also check into temp agencies, because I absolutely -would- be willing to quit at the end of that conversation.

  11. CM*

    “The title I’d accepted was also downgraded to one where I might have accepted the job had I known that change was coming” –> I think this should say “might NOT have accepted the job?”

    Since your boss has already clearly told you that you will be getting a raise and promotion at the six-month review, I would approach him now rather than waiting for the review.

    I agree with Allison’s advice about figuring out what you are prepared to do first. In a negotiation, you should always have in mind your ideal scenario (raise and promotion as agreed) and your BATNA, or “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” — in other words, if you can’t reach an acceptable agreement, what would happen if you walk away? Having this in mind will help you react in the moment. For instance, you might decide that a raise and promotion are your best-case scenario; acceptable scenarios are getting a raise of at least 20% with no promotion, or a raise of at least 10% with a promotion; and if you get less than that, you will look for a new job.

    Once you have that clear in your own mind, I think it would be worth it to talk to your boss now, before the review, and make it clear that you are expecting him to live up to his end of the bargain. Maybe something like, “Can we set a date for my six-month review? I appreciate you going to bat for me to make sure that I get the new title and salary bump at the six-month review, like we talked about a few months ago. Let me know if I should do anything to prepare for the review.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t call it a “bump.”

      I’d use the word “restored”: “I appreciate your working to make sure the title and salary I was originally offered get restored.”

  12. GertietheDino*

    A very similar thing happened to me. “Oh, you’ll get a promotion in a year.” “Oh, we need you on the project for at least 2 years before you can even get considered for a promotion” That’s great, but the first project ended after a year. The 2nd project is now 3.5 years in and I finally got the promotion (title and salary). The only reason I stuck around was I kept getting excellent reviews and pay increases. But honestly, I am very much done and am looking for my next gig.

  13. Granny K*

    This manager did a major bait-and-switch on salary, coupled with two of the previous people in this position leaving in less than 6 months? He doesn’t need to check with his supervisor for anything. He’s gaslighting you. Maybe he feels justified because it’s a non-profit for the environment and he’s counting on ‘the cause’ to be your cause, even if the organization is failing to deliver on it’s promises. I say get another job and get out. Your manager may be ‘nice’ but I really don’t think you can trust him at this point.

  14. Christian Troy*

    I’m not sure if this is specifically your situation but a couple of things stuck out to me that might be relevant to your situation:

    I had a few friends during college interview for jobs with non-profits that were focused on social and environmental issues and it seemed like part of their hiring and interview process is based on the bait and switch strategy. They interview bright college kids and promise them great opportunities to improve x issue or whatever, and having people move long distances on their own dime isn’t uncommon and expected. I don’t want to name names because I don’t want to call out specific organizations, but i am wondering by your letter if that’s possibly the situation you found yourself in as well. In the situation of my friends, one ended up moving back to another east coast city because between the terrible income and discrepancy of position offered vs. what she was doing, it didn’t make any sense to stay.

    Anyway my long comment is basically just to say I would start looking for a new job ASAP because I find the way these organizations are fundamentally structured you will never see the raise or more money. They attract people because they do “good work” but they are not places interested in retaining employees.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes, this. I’ve also known people who’ve been bait-and-switched by nonprofits with a heavy emphasis on “the cause.” I WILL name names, or at least the one I know of: US PIRG and its local affiliates. For years they’ve been plastering ads all over student-heavy areas in Massachusetts – but according to the people I know who’ve worked there, the actual pay is considerably less than the flyers falsely advertise.

      Though bait and switch and “but don’t you caaare about the cause” stuff is not exclusive to nonprofits – I once worked for a small for-profit company with an owner who constantly talked about how he was “ethical” unlike everyone else and “making a living, not a killing.” While classifying everyone as independent contractors, paying several of us well below minimum wage, and… well, that was just the beginning. He’d talk about how, yeah, he did things differently from everyone else, but wasn’t that great because he was ethical and cool and special and enlightened?

      1. abra*

        Can confirm: years back I responded to one of those US PIRG ads, and got an ‘interview’ that was probably supposed to be cattle-call-style except I was the only sucker to show up. (I was pretty desperate, and failing to get callbacks for anything, including entry-level retail or food service, despite having experience). The person conducting the PIRG interview was so scattered and shifty, and so evasive about scheduling, job duties, and pay that I politely declined the on-the-spot offer (to be a ‘manager,’ no less!) and left. I decided I’d prefer to stay unemployed than commit to an unspecified number of 12+ hour days for a (very low!) flat weekly rate. The overhead lights in the office weren’t even turned on, so I wasn’t even sure I’d see a paycheck, frankly…

        1. Fire*

          I went to an interview for the same place while in college in Boston! INTERESTINGLY, they were only hiring full time door-to-door people and refused to work around class schedules, despite advertising heavily in college campuses.

    2. Granny K*

      I think this is true. I remember interviewing for a job for a nonprofit charity that provided therapy to people with physical challenges/disabilities. I was asked in the interview if I would be ok with receiving a paycheck that may not clear. (!!??) I said no. Didn’t get that job. Not surprisingly they went out of business.

        1. the rent is too high*

          oops, my bad on reading comprehension, I magically saw the word “be” between not and clear ;)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMFG. Who asks if it’s ok to pass bad checks to you in the interview??

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            All I can come up with is someone: (1) extremely desperate; (2) who does not know what a check “clearing” means; or (3) independently wealthy and not concerned about the organization’s financial health if the mission seems worthy.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              They either want to hire exclusively (3)’s or it’s a situation like a a small business I interviewed with in high school, that had a habit of handing out paychecks with a warning to “not cash this until next Thursday or you’ll get a returned check fee.” (See, they were going to pay everyone, they just didn’t have the money yet, and they wanted to make sure none of their employees got screwed by those evil, money-grubbing banks, you know?)

              For some reason, they didn’t want me (maybe because I asked at the interview if the stories about the check thing were 1) real and 2) legal?), but I heard stories like that from my friends until the place closed, and as far as I know the last checks never cleared.

      2. Pwyll*

        I feel like the only answer to this is “Well, no, because knowingly writing a bad check is a felony.”

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, or they promise you substantive work or work as a community organizer, but in fact your job is to just canvass for donations in metro areas. It’s exhausting and misleading and breaks a lot of people down.

  15. Magenta Sky*

    “. . .but that I could have seven extra PTO days.”

    “I’ll be using that for interviews for another job.”
    “. . .being assertive without being a bitch.”

    “It’s a shame I can’t say the same about you.”

    I’d have walked out on the spot, even if it meant living in my car. I may be a tad extreme, but if they’re willing to lie to get me to come to work for them, there’s no reason to believe anything they say. Ever.

  16. tupelotarheel*

    This post is so timely and helpful; thank you. I’m in a similar situation where I found my dream job, which was sort of created for me. I began work as a contractor in November, my boss assuring me it was the quickest way to bring me on board and I would be moved into a full-time position by March or April. We’ve had about 3 conversations this year when I asked what the timeline is, how I could help the process move forward, and said it’s important to me to be a full-time employee. Each time she said my work is great but either she didn’t have an update or she wasn’t sure when it would happen. Last update in early June was that my job description was sitting on the new CEO’s desk and when he approved it we could move forward. No updates since then, and last week it was announced that our CEO is taking on a much bigger role, our team of 50 is going to do a re-org, half a dozen leaders on our team are shifting roles, and we have hired about 10 external folks since I came on. I see my job falling from low priority to totally forgotten as this happens. I want to have one last conversation with my boss, but I’m stuck at how to say I am not interested in staying long-term in a job with no benefits without making it sound like a threat, so this language is very helpful. I’m also going to start looking for recruiters and jobs.

    1. the rent is too high*

      Honestly, if you hadn’t used “she” for your boss, I would have assumed you worked for my old boss. If I had known at the beginning of the process how long it would have actually taken to get done, and the amount of effort it needed on my part to keep pushing for it, and how much of a priority it *wasn’t* to my boss, I would have cut my ties at the start and run.

      And, yeah, he also kept trying to get me to take a job without benefits, too. I did hold firm on that one. Not interested. I’m still a bit bitter since I know the ballpark figure of how much that screwing-around hurt me in salary-at-the-time and also salary-since-then.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      Start looking around, now. Your power will come from having another offer as opposed to your boss understanding that you might leave.

      1. tupelotarheel*

        Thanks, y’all. I also think the best way to get an offer is to have a competing one, if I can find it. My girlfriend say I should wait a year before looking, but I think enough time has dragged on to be suspicious about when or if it’ll happen.

        1. Friday*

          If you have a competing offer… take the competing offer! Also in general, it’s good to be always looking, at least casually. You never know when a job that you really can’t say no to will come your way. Good luck!

        2. DDJ*

          I will add in that…your boss might be being honest about all this. Depending on the organization, sometimes it can take an agonizing amount of time to cut through all the BS red tape. And especially if a position is being moved from contract to permanent, it changes the budget. Even if you’d be paid the exact same amount and they were just changing the position, that’s a line item that has to change. I was a contractor at an organization for almost a year, and the people I worked for kept trying to get me hired on full-time, but they only had a budget amount authorized for “contractors,” and nothing additional for employees.

          Maybe they were blowing smoke up my…smokestack. But it can be a pain the butt to try to change a position.

          Now, the fact that you’re going through a re-org is an excellent opportunity for you to bring this up one last time! “With the restructuring, I was wondering if that could potentially have an impact on my position being made a permanent role. Since roles and responsibilities are going to be shifting a bit through the re-org, it seems like this would be a great time to have my role integrated into the new framework.” Or something more graceful than that. But if you can approach all of these changes as a positive, it may help to cut through arguments that “With the re-org, this just isn’t a good time, there’s so much going on, etc.”

          But! I do also agree that looking for another job right now is a good idea. Good luck!

        3. Ego Chamber*

          “My girlfriend say I should wait a year before looking,”

          No, not if you’re a contractor—and especially not if they’re jerking you around about moving you from contractor to employee. That one year thing is a general rule for regular employment, contractors don’t have the same general expectations.

          1. sstabeler*

            not to mention that the one-year rule is to avoid looking like you back out of an agreement- in this case, to work for a company- at the slightest provocation. The company backing out of THEIR side of the agreement is a different matter.

  17. Nico m*

    Since the boss is such a great guy – his hands are tied, and he so kindly thinks of you as “not a bitch”, and the organisation is doing such important work…

    .. why doesnt he fund the proper title and promised pay level – by reducing his own salary!

    (A can of petrol for when the bridge has already caught fire)

  18. the rent is too high*

    We had a great conversation, and he assured me that my pay would be increased after he checked in with his supervisor about it.
    . In our last conversation on the topic, my boss literally praised me for “being assertive without being a bitch” (professionalism is a whole separate issue here).

    My mantra is “it’s not what they say, it’s what they do” (with the caveat that saying “you’re not a bitch” is hella not okay). Your boss makes promises. His actions belie his words. They’re using you, they lied to you, and he’s not going to change.

      1. K.*

        Actually, that entire quote is “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Applicable here, I think, because Boss showed his character right out of the gate.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Thanks! I’ve only ever heard/seen the shortened one. (Do you happen to know who/where it’s from?) I think it implies the longer form, but the longer form is clearer.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s Maya Angelou! I think it came from an interview? (I wish I could remember the source.) She’s also talked at length about why she doesn’t allow negative people in her house; I think the quote comes from those “life advice” conversations that she had with various interviewers.

    1. Artemesia*

      He just had to ‘talk to his manager’ about the great price on the car — and unfortunately his hands are tied, the manager just wouldn’t go for it, but they will throw in a free undercoat. The OP is being yanked around; these people are jerks; time to move on in her own timetable.

    2. Been There, Done That*

      Like, right on! Mama always says, “Actions speak louder than words.”

      I’m in a similar situation, relocated for a job that started falling apart fast. The pay is decent, but instead of the getting the promised leadership opportunity, I’m in the back office fielding phones most of the time, and my title has been downgraded more than once. I followed the conventional wisdom of staying at least 3 years, for the sake of my resume and because after the move I was too worn out to launch a job search in an unfamiliar town. Changing cities is hard!

      Any advice for handling downgraded titles on a resume? Mine sounds like I started in the middle and made quick progress to the bottom.

  19. Nicotene*

    The only other Lesson Learned here I’d say was – did they *say* the overtime was worth thousands, or did you think that in your own head? OP you may have done everything right, but I’d caution other people not to accept a job counting on OT to make up salary. I’ve had a lot of friends end up with less in OT than they would have thought because companies can make you take comp days first, your sick and leave time can get counted against it in ways that you might not expect, etc. If they verbally said something like “of course, the OT will add thousands to this base salary” then that’s different. Or if you asked explicitly and they confirmed. But it’s tough if this is just a mental calculation you made.

    1. Antilles*

      In this particular case, it sounds like they were explicitly clear that there would be 3 weeks of 24 hr work (whatever that means – there’s another thread where people are debating exactly what that means) and the position would be hourly. So from that, it’s very easy to quickly do the math and calculate “okay, that’s 180 hours of OT, at the OT rate of $25/hour, that’s $4,500”.
      However, you’re absolutely right that it’s never good to count on overtime to make up for base salary (even if they’d said so) because OT is not in any way guaranteed. There’s just so many situations where a company can suddenly stop needing OT:
      Your company could hire extra people, so there’s no longer any need for OT. They could shift job responsibilities so the OT hours are spread among the entire group. They could hit a budget shortfall and decide that they’d rather leave tasks unfinished rather than cut extra checks. They could have a dry spell where they just don’t have the work to justify OT. And so on.

    2. TootsNYC*

      and at my job, we had a habit of paying overtime, and people made a ton off of that. Then the company came along and said, “No more overtime,” and bam! it was gone. It would never have been an explicit promise, but people might quite logically have factored that in.

      And then it was gone.

      so yeah, don’t count on that sort of thing lasting.

      Overtime is always in the crosshairs for smart companies, to be honest. Especially if it’s substantial.

    3. Huntington*

      And then there’s this: Even though you might be hourly/non-exempt, and your employer thus required to pay overtime, your employer might make it part of your job to get pre-approval for any overtime you work. I’ve worked places that are begging workers to work overtime and use it as an incentive, and there are people who make more from overtime than from their base salary. And then I’ve worked places that are exceptional — but absolutely do not want you working overtime, and of course will pay it in discrete situations where it’s known that it’s going to lead to that, but in no way should you count on thousands in overtime because you’ll be fired before it gets to that.

      1. Nooner*

        Yeah at my company there’s theoretically OT available but they never grant permission. They’ll just give that task to a salaried person.

        1. Noobtastic*

          At my old job, I used to have OT a lot, but then, in the last year, they changed it to “You have to have prior approval, and we’re not about to give it, except in cases of absolute emergencies,” and suddenly, it all dried up. I worked literally 15 minutes of overtime during the last year, and that was because some exempt person sprung an emergency on me at 4:45 on a Friday.

          Shortly after that, they changed the process so that it did not include non-exempt people.

          Fortunately, I had long trained myself never to count on or budget for OT pay. In fact, I would frequently take comp days, instead (with approval from my boss), until they nixed that, a few years before they nixed OT altogether.

          To me, the OT pay was a nice bonus, which I earned, because I was working extra hard. It felt nice, and I’d spend the money on extras or just sock it away, because I already had a workable budget within my guaranteed pay. And then, when they stopped the OT pay, I just said, “YAY! Let the exempt people work until they pass out. I get to go home at 5, get every weekend and holiday off, and get to maintain a work-life balance!”

          Silver linings, yay! But really, it’s because I was blessed with parents who taught me “Hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

          Isn’t that a Boy Scout motto, or something? Anyway, it is a good way to live your life, financially.

  20. Deanna*

    What kind of documentation did OP get prior to accepting the job? A formal offer letter? Any email correspondence with the title and salary/exempt status? Depending on the state, handshake and verbal agreements might be considered admissible in court.

    I doubt OP wants to go that route, but consulting with an attorney isn’t a bad idea. Because this all seems super shady.

    1. sap*

      From what OP is describing, this is one of the rare situations where OP might actually have a contracts remedy in some states (employer promised x, employee moved in reliance on x, showed up and on the first day wasn’t even given a a day of x–often that gets around “at will,” to a point). But a difficult one.

      However, unless OP’s job is clearly one that ISN’T appropriately classified as non-exempt, there isn’t anything illegal going on here–at most, breach of covenants/reliance stuff. Given the salary threshold for exempt/non-exempt and the potential rule change issue, I’m guessing that OP probably is salaried at less than 47k but more than 23k. Depending on where OP works, it will probably be difficult to find a lawyer to take a case with this value proposition on contingency, and it sounds like OP is hurting financially already because of this employer’s deception. I don’t think lawyer up is a good option for OP here–OP should focus on looking for a new job.

  21. Betty*

    Start looking for a new job. One that will appreciate you!

    Also stop working more than 40 hours a week, they don’t value you or your time, but you should.

  22. CatCat*

    For me, this would be unsalvageable. There would have to be major damage control on the part of the organization to save the relationship and that seems unlikely and I wouldn’t plan on it.

    I’d just start looking for a job right now. I wouldn’t resign without something lined up, I would still advocate for myself, and I would 100% be planning to jump ship based on this history alone. Even if the raise and title and everything else came through at the review, the org. is behaved badly (I mean, at the review, it’s not much of a recognition of merit to the same title and pay I should have already had).

    1. Insufficient Data*

      This would be unsalvageable for me as well right now, but might not have been when I was in my first or second job. At that time I was willing to ignore some yellow/orange/red flags to get some more experience and make it through the job for at least 2 years. Looking back, I can’t believe I waited so long to start my job search. I agree that the LW should start looking now- if nothing else it gives her more options and might help make the current situation tolerable knowing there are opportunities out there.

  23. LCL*

    What can an environmental non-profit do that is so important you have to work 24 hours days for 3 weeks? I can see those kinds of hours in disaster situations or war zones, not for non emergency environmental work. Does the company still expect you to put in 3 weeks of 24 hour days for no extra money? And, have you done the 3 week stretch before? Those kinds of hours are hell on people, you shouldn’t allow your health to be destroyed for non emergency work.

    1. abra*

      I know someone who had a similar position with an environmental nonprofit — in that case, the nonprofit hosted an annual offsite conference, and their IT people / event managers / staff all traveled to that conference and were on-call 24/7 for the duration of the conference, plus extra days on either end for transporting equipment and set-up and breakdown. (It often did end up resembling a disaster or warzone, admittedly… but it was part of the job, scheduled for the same block of time each year, and extra pay was not given, though expenses were covered.)

    2. LizB*

      Since the LW is an educator for the non-profit, my totally-out-of-thin-air guess is the non-profit runs a science camp for local schools for 3 weeks in the fall, and LW would be an on-site educator for that. Being resident camp staff is essentially a 24-hour job, so when I hear “3 weeks of 24 hours” that’s what my mind jumps to.

      1. Overeducated*

        Yup, that or maybe a travel program (I’m on the east coast, and I know of at least two environmental ed programs that run around here most of the year but do a couple weeks in a big, famous park out west every year). Some nonprofits also run long distance tours for donors to raise money and foster stewardship, and in that case staff are “on” at all times too.

        Speaking of disaster situations, though, people with training come from all over the country to fight wilderness fires as needed, including people whose primary jobs are in other areas of environmental work. So it’s not even impossible that the OP’s work could be “so important.” But if it’s a known amount of time each fall I’d guess a camp or travel program too…..

    1. Natalie*

      It really wouldn’t matter if it was in writing – they’re allowed to reduce salary or change classification at any time as long as those changes aren’t retroactive. That’s the “freedom” of at-will employment. They’re free to make changes to future pay, and the OP is free to leave.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Except that having it in writing doesn’t make it a contract, unless it actually is a contract. Employers are allowed to change the terms of employment at any time, and employees are allowed to quit at any time; there are many circumstances where an employee’s only recourse will have a more negative impact on the employee than the employer.

          For real: how is it better to have the original offer in writing, when that it changes nothing about the terms of at-will employment, and when this employer pretty clearly doesn’t care about basic ethics?

      1. sap*

        In this case, it might actually be retroactive-they told employee once she had already started working, it seems. These cases usually don’t get litigated because the damages usually aren’t high enough, but in most at will states there is a rule that says there is an implied good faith requirement, and changing the terms of employment this dramatically on the first day of work after inducing the employee to move… Probably crossed that line.

        1. Natalie*

          inducing the employee to move

          If you don’t mind explaining the legal nuances a bit, would they really be considered to have induced her to move? It doesn’t sound like they headhunted her or possibly even knew she was applying from out of state.

          1. sap*

            So, induce was probably a poorly chosen word here because it has a lot of different meanings and I didn’t mean the legal definition here, but a short rundown:

            There’s a concept in contract law called reliance that can kindof create a contract where there wouldn’t otherwise be an enforceable one. It goes like this: I told A that I would give her a biweekly payments of $500 forever; A told me she would retire since she didn’t need more than the payments (the pension wasn’t contingent on her retiring); she did, and I stopped paying her. She may be able to enforce my promise to pay her, since that was why she retired. (It is a lot more nuanced than this, but this is the basic concept and is basically the facts of a case where the promissor was forced to pay, in fact).

            It would shock me if OP’s employer didn’t know OP was moving 2k miles based on their job offer/acceptance. That puts them at a higher obligation to not summarily rescind the job than otherwise would be the case, in many states.

            Here is a decent summary of promissory estoppel/reliance (depending on who you ask, these are or aren’t exactly the same thing, but close enough for this), and why these cases just don’t
            come up because of limited damages.

    2. Antilles*

      That only would help if it had been a legitimate misunderstanding – the hiring manager left before you joined and his replacement didn’t know you’d agreed on being hourly-not-salary; you had some non-standard information that people hadn’t remembered; stuff like that. But given that the company clearly doesn’t care, their likely response would just be to shrug and say “OK, so?”
      And from there, OP’s only options would be to accept it, continue complaining to a brick wall, or quit.

  24. H.C.*

    Agreed with beginning your search for another job; it’s ludicrous that you got demoted and now you’re fighting tooth and nail (for 6+ months!) to get the role & pay you were originally offered. Even if you got your agreed upon pay, everything leading up to it is indicative of serious organizational dysfunction (and that ‘bitch’ comment, wtf?!)

    Hopefully you’re in a better job market & won’t have to move again for your next role.

  25. Terra-cotta*

    I also wonder what other professional snafu’s this organization has hiding. It sounds like the start of a very disfunctional working environment. Using people and churning them out while using bait and switch to keep them complacent. I also agree with other comments that you should start looking. If you are getting paid a lower wage it may be hard to afford bills, only compounding your stress.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      The OP could consider giving as much notice as they received when the job was downgraded.

  26. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I’m grateful for this question because it’s similar to something I wrote to Alison about a few weeks ago (and have complained about on the open threads).

    My situation is different in that it was internal; I took a job on a new team at the same organization, which was supposed to come with a title and salary bump that never materialized. I want to stay with my organization, so my question is/was really about ways to advocate for myself that I may not have tried. (Actually, I don’t remember what question I posed in my email. I may have just complained! But that’s where I’m at: my best case scenario is that I stay in my job and get the title and salary I was promised. My organization has flaws, but it’s not fundamentally problematic in the way that this OP’s boss seems to be).

    Anyway. Solidarity. It sucks.

  27. MicroManagered*

    At what point is it worth requesting to have this conversation with Grandboss? It sounds like Boss is putting it on Grandboss that OP’s pay can’t be increased. I get respecting the chain of command, but at what point do you cut out the middleman/woman who hasn’t been able to address the concerns?

  28. Terra-cotta*

    I’ve been in a similar situation. It becomes worse, very quickly. You also start to resent the lies you were told to get you in that role. Run, don’t walk away Op.

  29. Alli525*

    Is this not something that an employment lawyer could help with? If there was a signed offer letter (OP doesn’t say) and they’ve reneged on their terms…

    Still, though, OP should start job searching immediately, whether in her present location or back home. This is a crazypants office and things aren’t going to get better.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Offer letters aren’t contracts, and most of them include language to that effect in the offer letter itself. The employer didn’t do anything illegal by changing the terms on LW’s first day (unfortunately).

  30. Snark*

    So you get roundly screwed, without apology or a good reason why, and then they have the unmitigated gall to imply that if you object to it strenuously, you’re being a bitch. Unbelievable.

  31. Alice*

    OP, I hope that you can find a new job soon. By all means try and negotiate back to the compensation that they offered, but as long as you stay, please remember that this is an organization that is willing to screw over employees.
    Since you moved for this job, perhaps you’ll be able to leverage your physical presence in the new location in your candidacy for a position at a more ethical org. Good luck!

  32. Yet Even Another Alison*

    OP, I am so sorry this happened to you. What a shi%%y thing to do to you. If I were you, I would take Alison’s advice -really start looking. And, frankly, you have a great reason to be looking. (If you are concerned how it would be perceived to be looking after 6 months) Most employers would completely understand why one would be looking under these conditions. You, on the other hand, would be smelling like a rose. You are committed, serious – moved 2000 miles to take the position, love the work, great at the job, but you were lied to (and I would not use the word lie) about salary. There is NO way they did not realize the financial impact of the change was material before they re-classed the position – I just don’t buy it. They really put you in a no win position – telling you about this AFTER you had committed to the move, relo with no financial assistance, and found a place to live. I hope they come through with the adjustment but given their actions, I hate to say this, but I think they are playing you. I mean no disrespect to you – they are the ones that should be ashamed. You should job hunt with your head held high – you go!

  33. Yet Even Another Alison*

    Also, the comment from your boss about being assertive without being bitchy…..I don’t blame you if you did express anger (Egads….bitchy!!!) You moved 2000 miles, with no relo assistance, to take a job with a compensation package of X. And days into the job, you were told you were being paid X-Y. I assume, and please, no flames, because he used the term bitchy, that OP is a woman. Remember, some people, especially men, are very uncomfortable with a woman asserting herself. Ask yourself how he would react if you were a man in the position you are in now and you were expressing the same sentiments. Women aren’t allowed to express anger in the workplace without being penalized severely (in most places). Use your very justifiable anger in this situation to energize a job search that lands a position worthy of you!!!!!

    1. Yet Even Another Alison*

      Correction – not bitchy – being a bitch. Now I know that OP is a woman…..

  34. SeptemberGrrl*

    . In our last conversation on the topic, my boss literally praised me for “being assertive without being a bitch” (professionalism is a whole separate issue here). I love my job and have a very good relationship with my boss

    It’s very disturbing that you think you have a good relationship with a boss who would say something that offensive and misogynistic – and a boss who would totally screw you over on both title and compensation after you moved 2,000 miles. You do NOT have a good relationship with your boss. You have a dysfunctional relationship where he treats you extremely badly in very important ways, and you put up with it.

    Wise up, sister!!! You have a shitty boss and he’s not changing so it’s up to you to figure out your next move. But if you stay, remember: As of your first day on the job, when he changed the nature of your position, you knew he was a snake. Everything after that, you had fair warning on what to expect from him.

  35. arjumand*

    “In our last conversation on the topic, my boss literally praised me for “being assertive without being a bitch” (professionalism is a whole separate issue here). I love my job and have a very good relationship with my boss . . .”

    This is gaslighting taken to a new level – they’re exploiting you and you’re thanking them for it.
    There is no raise. There will never be a raise. It’s interesting that your boss praised you for being assertive – how can you have been assertive if you didn’t get what you wanted, what they’d promised you? Come on. Start looking for a new job.
    Look, if your 6-month review comes up, don’t mention the raise. Don’t even hint at it. See if they remind you of it. I can tell you that they’re not going to, because it doesn’t exist.

  36. kindnessisitsownreward*

    all I can say is “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” (which of course outs me on the age thing). This is a bad situation and I think you should assume that this is the way the company operates. If they don’t take prompt and direct action to fix this situation then I strongly encourage you to get out of there.

  37. marmalade*

    Wait, but what about your contract? I mean it’s pretty clear cut, if that says Job Title A/Salary A, and now you have Job Title B/Salary B. So I’d look for a new job, but also talk to a lawyer.
    Unless they didn’t give the contract to you until you arrived at the job? Although I can’t imagine taking a job (especially one with a move) without signing the contract in advance.

    1. CB*

      In the USA a job contract isn’t usual. In a freelancer/client relationship you’d want one, but I’ve never had a contract with an employer. Ideally and probably most frequently, you get an offer letter – but I’ve taken jobs with just a verbal agreement to terms.

      1. Y*

        How… how can that even work? How can you possibly know what the terms and conditions of the employment are — right up to basic things, as in this case, like salary — if there isn’t a contract?

      2. Y*

        (I mean technically there is a contract — there must be, because there’s agreement and consideration — it’s just that it isn’t a written contract. But again, how does that work when the two sides have different ideas of what it is they agreed to?)

        1. CM*

          Like CB said, there is an offer letter. This letter typically contains the start date, title, salary, and basic information about benefits. The candidate is also handed a packet with detailed information about benefits. But it’s understood that none of this is guaranteed. Either the employer or the employee can change their mind about any of that at any time, and it’s purely between the two of them.

          In contrast, in Europe, employees are legally guaranteed certain rights (many of which are considered optional benefits in the US), and it can be difficult for Europeans to understand the US at-will system which basically ignores the huge difference in power between employers and employees and guarantees very little to employees.

          1. Y*

            Like CB said, there is an offer letter. This letter typically contains the start date, title, salary, and basic information about benefits

            That’s a contract, then, isn’t it? For instance, if at the end of the first month you get your pay and it’s not what the offer letter says, you could sue for the difference, because they promised X for your work and gave you Y instead.

            (A contract doesn’t have to say ‘contract’ at the top, any agreement for consideration is a contract, even if it was never written down).

            But what if, say, a dispute arises over the nature of the work: the employee says that they weren’t hired to do something, the employer says they were? How can that be sorted out if it goes to court and ends up as just ‘you said’ / ‘no I didn’t’ situation, with no documentation either way because nothing was written down?

            (It’s got nothing to do with statutory rights, it’s about having documentation to prove what the agreement was, in case it become necessary)

            Also, how does the golden rule ‘never quit until you have a signed contract for your new job’ work when there are no written contracts?

            1. Merida Ann*

              For work that has already been completed, yes, they have to pay what they said they would. They can’t change it retroactively. But for future work, nothing is guaranteed.

              A dispute over the nature of the work wouldn’t go to court – either the employee would agree to do it, the employer would back off the demand, or the employee would quit/be fired. Most places put “other duties as assigned” in their job descriptions to cover that sort of thing, but it’s pretty much implied anyway. You can be fired at any time for any reason (except for race, sex, etc.), so it can come down to “this duty is part of the job now – do it or leave”.

              An employee could decide not to come in to work anymore and quit immediately. An employer could decide not to employ the person any more and tell them to leave immediately. Outside of the few contracted positions others have mentioned, there’s no guarantee on either side.

              The rule in the US is not to quite until you have an official offer – not a signed contract.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, exactly this.

                An offer letter doesn’t bind the employer for any length of time; they can change the terms at any point, just not retroactively. (They can’t say they’ll pay you $X and then hand you a paycheck for less than that. But they can tell you at any point “we’re changing your salary to $Y effective tomorrow” and you can accept that, try to negotiate it, or quit.)

                And some employers don’t even use offer letters; it’s just a conversation. (Although then you’d be smart to follow up summarizing in an email what was agreed to so that there’s a record of it.)

              2. Y*

                For work that has already been completed, yes, they have to pay what they said they would. They can’t change it retroactively

                But if there’s nothing written, how can that be determined?

                Example: one of the things employment contracts usually state is the employee’s minimum hours, if any, along with core hours, flexi-time arrangements, etc.

                So, hypothetical: at the end of the month, employer pays half of salary. Says employee didn’t turn up all the hours they were supposed to.

                Employee says they understood that as long as the work was done, they didn’t have to be in the office for any set amount of time. Claims employer verbally told them that was fine at the start of the month.

                Without written documentation of what was agreed, how is a court to decide whether the employee is entitled to their full pay?

                1. CAA*

                  Either you are getting paid hourly or you are getting paid a salary. If you are getting paid by the hour, then you typically have some sort of time keeping system, either online or a physical timecard that you put into a timeclock that stamps the time when you arrived and left, so there is no argument over whether or not you were there. If you are on salary, you get paid a fixed amount regardless of whether you’re there, as that’s the definition of salary. There are other ways to deal with a salaried employee who doesn’t show up without docking his pay. If you get that far as an employer, you are doing it wrong.

                  If an employer shorts you on your pay and you can’t work it out directly with them, then you complain to your state’s labor board. You do not go to court until after you’ve been through many other attempts at resolution and this kind of thing would virtually always be resolved way before there’s a court case.

                  If there’s a dispute where the employer said they’d be paying $10/hour and they only paid $8/hour, then in that case the offer letter saying $10/hour would be evidence that the employee would present in their initial complaint to the labor board. If the employer wanted to claim that the employee knew that they were reducing the wage to $8/hour, then the employer would present a document that they gave to the employee stating the change, or they would bring in other employees who would say that they remembered this person being in the meeting where the new wage was explained. At any rate, the employer would usually only be liable for one or two pay periods (pay period is a max of 2 weeks in most jurisdictions), because after that the employee cannot claim he didn’t know about the new wage rate and by continuing to work at the job he is accepting that new rate.

                  The other stuff you mention like employee’s minimum hours, if any, along with core hours, flexi-time arrangements, etc. is not part of a contract. It’s typically just written in the employee handbook that’s handed to you on your first day at a new job. You know what the rules are and you either follow them or get fired. In your case, they’re just putting the details in a contract so you’ll know what the rules are and either follow them or get fired. I guess the benefit of having them in a contract is that the employer cannot change them unilaterally without being in violation of the contract, but in the U.S. the employer can change these terms any time. I know it can seem like the wild west to people from other places, but keep in mind that’s only because you hear about the rare cases where something goes drastically wrong. Usually people do talk to each other and changes are explained, and companies don’t make dramatic changes to work conditions very often anyway. The case in this letter is an anomaly, not the norm.

                2. Y*

                  If there’s a dispute where the employer said they’d be paying $10/hour and they only paid $8/hour, then in that case the offer letter saying $10/hour would be evidence that the employee would present in their initial complaint to the labor board

                  So the offer letter does form part of the contract, then?

                  It ’s typically just written in the employee handbook that’s handed to you on your first day at a new job

                  Then the handbook also forms part of the contract?

                  It sounds like there is in fact a written contract, it’s just not all together: it’s in various bits and places, and somebody could at an time claim that it had been superseded by some oral amendment which hadn’t actually been recorded anywhere.

                  Sounds very disorganised. I’m surprised it works at all and doesn’t just keep dissolving into chaos. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have everything written down so everybody knows where they stand, and there’s no chance of ‘but there was a meeting’, ‘where’s the written evidence?’, ‘there isn’t any but these people were there’, ‘well these people were also there and they say you’re lying’, etc etc.

                3. CAA*

                  You are not using the word contract the way that we ordinarily use it in the U.S. I can’t tell if that’s because it means something different to you, or because you’re trying to stretch the meaning of the word.

                  An offer letter and an employee handbook are not contracts, just like an email from your boss telling you to do task x by Friday is not a contract. These are just documents delivered to you by your employer that can be superseded at a later time with or without your consent. Just because something is written down doesn’t mean it’s a contract. And of course anything that’s written (or heard) can be brought as evidence in a legal proceeding as needed, whether or not it is a contract.

                4. Y*

                  A contract doesn’t have to have the word ‘contract’ at the start. It doesn’t even have to be written down. Any agreement which involves consideration on both sides is a contract.

                  If I send you an e-mail saying, ‘Will you give me a lift into town at lunchtime? I’ll pay for the petrol’ and you reply, ‘Yep’, then we have a contract, and if you give me the lift and I refuse to pay for the petrol you could theoretically take me to court for it (if on the other hand lunchtime came and you said, ‘actually I can’t make it’ then I couldn’t take you to court to force you, because you not doing your bit of the contract just releases me from mine — I don’t have to pay you. On the other hand hand if I had already paid you then you would either have to take me or give me my money back.)

                  But the fact is that it is a contract, because it’s an agreement with consideration. As long as there is an offer, an acceptance, intent and consideration, then there’s a contract, whether or not there’s a document that says ‘contract’ at the top.

                  As far as I know this is the case in every common-law jurisdiction, of which the USA is one.

                5. Y*

                  Are you sure? Or is it just that they have ruled that they aren’t fixed-duration contracts? I think it’s the latter. They clearly are [part of] a contract, in the sense that a contract is formed any time an offer is made and accepted that involves consideration and intent.

                  After all, if the offer letter states a salary and the employer tries to pay less than that, and the offer letter can be used to prove the salary the employee is actually entitled to, then the offer letter clearly forms part of the implied contract between employer and employee, doesn’t it?

                1. Y*

                  So if the offer letter states pay of, say, twenty quid an hours, and the employer pays eighteen quid, or even refuses to pay at all, and you sue for the difference, under what branch of law are you entitled to a remedy?

                  If it’s not common-law contract law whereby you point out that there was an agreement between you that you would do X, and they would pay you Y, an agreement entered into by both parties with consideration and intent to be bound by it, and you have held up your end of the bargain and now they have to hold up theirs, then what branch of law is it?

                2. Y*

                  (I mean, it’s not a tort, it’s not equity, it’s not property law… so what is it if not contract law?)

                3. Y*

                  Sure, but under which branch of law would they handle it?

                  You did the work; now they have to hold up their end of the contract and pay you. Same situation as if you said to someone, ‘build me an extension for ten grand’ (but didn’t put anything in writing) and they built the extension and you tried to pay them eight; they’d sue you for breach of contract.

                4. sstabeler*

                  employment law- it’s a separate branch of law from contract law.

                  besides which, it’s largely splitting hairs if you call it a contract or not- as the law stands in the US, an employment contract only becomes binding after you do the work, and only as far as work is already completed, since the only remedy available in law for your employer changing the terms of your employment- provided said changes aren’t backdated- is termination of your employment and- if the issue is backdated changes- requiring the employer to pay for work already completed. It’s specifically legal for an employer to change what your job is, provided they inform you beforehand (that is, an employer can’t hire you as a CEO, then say “oops, your job is actually to be a janitor” after you’ve already done say, a month’s work as CEO, and only pay you what salary a janitor will get even though you did the job of a CEO. However, they CAN tell you- when you report for work- that you will be a janitor instead.(however, it’s also perfectly legitimate to say “I’m sorry, but that’s not what I agreed to, therefore I am resigning with immediate effect”- it’s one of the few circumstances where quitting on the spot can be easily justified.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      Assuming the LW is American, we don’t do job contracts here unless the person is self employed and acting not as an employee of the company but essentially as a vendor. They are not legally beholden to literally any promises made in the hiring process, to boot– they just can’t retroactively change your pay for hours already worked.

    1. Noobtastic*

      Here is my fantasy:

      You befriend a journalist for some well-known online site. Maybe Jezebel or XOJane? Someone who would just EAT THIS UP, especially with the misogynistic thing about “assertive without being a bitch.” Tell the journalist your situation.

      Journalist tracks down and interviews the last two people to have the job, and takes their information and your information and writes up a scathing article about this company. Journalist gets it all set up to go live, and all she has to do is click a button.

      You go into your six-month review, and say, “So, are you going to give me the salary and job title you promised me, in the first place? How about a merit-based raise above that, for all the hard work and professionalism I’ve shown these six months?” When the answer is no, their hands are tied, the situation has changed, yada, yada, yada, you whip out your phone, press your speed dial, and say, “Operation Uranium is a Go.”

      Within moments, the article is posted online, and their phones are alerted to the article, via email. BOOM.

      And You walk out triumphantly, with a new job already lined up: You and your two predecessors join a specialized team of … um… specialists, who do Leverage stuff against jerk wads who bait-and-switch employees.

      Yeah, that’s a fun fantasy.

      Reality – get another job as fast as you can, and get out of there, and post a scathing review on Glassdoor.

    2. WittyOne*


      I’m sorry but this feels a bit like a red flag orgy.

      They have shown you who they are. I don’t believe you will get what they promised you. And they didn’t have the balls (is that bitchy?) to tell you before you moved and waited for you to be onsite and working – scumbag move. I’m sorry but I would start looking now. Not now, right now. You deserve to be treated with respect.

      Good luck!

  38. Terra-cotta*

    I’d bring my contract into the review. Perhaps cc an email to hr in on this, may need a paper trail.

    1. fposte*

      There’s almost certainly not a contract. Most jobs in the U.S. don’t have them, and the OP didn’t indicate that hers was an exception.

  39. Database Developer Dude*

    What did the offer letter say? The instant they came to me and said “Yeah, we’re going to pay you X-Y instead of X, and your title will be this instead of that”, I’d wave the offer letter and say “this is what I was offered. If this can’t happen, then today’s my last day. “

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