our employer wants to cut our pay — retroactively

A reader writes:

I work for a national nonprofit based in the U.S. with offices across the country. On Friday, our CEO sent out the dreaded “due to COVID-19, layoffs are coming” email. In it, we were told that on the following Monday they would be laying off 25% of the staff nationwide, and those who get to keep their jobs will have to take a pay cut, tiered based on how much you make currently.

Aside from the timing being terrible (a Friday where we all got to the stress about our jobs over the weekend, and Good Friday no less), in the email it said that all pay cuts will be retroactive to April 6 — four days before the email was sent. Meaning, everyone’s next paycheck will be at whatever our reduced rate will be (and, the assumption is that for those who lose their job, their last paycheck will also be at the reduced rate). However, we were told that those of us who keep our jobs will not get our new compensation letters until “April 15th at the latest.” So, if you keep your job, you will have worked upwards of eight business days at a reduced rate without knowing what that rate will be.

Is this legal? Can they retroactively reduce our pay, or are they required to pay us at our current rates until we receive concrete notice of our new rates?

(If it matters, we were told a week ago they were applying for one of the Paycheck Protection Program Loans, so if the company received it, I’m assuming they are trying to lay people off prior to the origination so they would still qualify for not having to pay it back — though this is purely an assumption).

It’s not legal.

Employers can change your pay going forward, but they can’t do it retroactively. The logic is pretty simple: You need to agree to the rate of pay you’ll be exchanging your work for. When an employer announces a pay cut going forward, you have the opportunity to say, “That won’t work for me” and attempt to negotiate a different rate or, failing that, to quit. An employer can’t announce, “Surprise! That work you’d signed up to do for $2,000 a week? We’ve decided we’re only going to pay you $1,500 for last week.” They can announce, “Starting next week, we’ll only be paying $1,500 a week. Take it or leave it.” But they can’t change your pay without first giving you the chance to decide if you’re willing to work under the new terms or not.

So, no, those pay cuts cannot be retroactive to four days before their announcement.

In fact, the pay cuts can’t even be retroactive to the day of the announcement because they still haven’t told you what your new pay rate will be. The pay cuts can’t go into effect until they tell you what the new pay is, so you have an opportunity to decide whether or not to continue working for that salary. If they announce the specifics on April 15, the cuts cannot take effect until April 16 at the earliest … and frankly it would be terrible form to have them go into effect the next day; they should be giving people time to process the information. (In fact, many states require “reasonable notice,” which one would think is more than a day, but I also haven’t seen any specify what amount that is.)

They also can’t rely on “well, we told you we were making some sort of cut.” They need to tell you specifics before they can implement it, so you can decide whether you’ll work for that or not.

As for what to do, say this: “I of course understand the need for pay cuts right now, but I want to make sure you know that legally, we cannot make them retroactive. The law says they can only be effective going forward after people are informed of their new pay rate. Wage and hour laws don’t permit us to do it retroactively.”

{ 206 comments… read them below }

    1. CastMaster*

      Yeah, don’t have anything to add really except oof. Big oof. I’m relatively new to the workforce, and it keeps amazing me how companies are either ignorant of or purposefully in contradiction with the law.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, enforcement of most business laws is so lax in the US that they might as well be guidelines rather than laws.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t know that enforcement is laxer there; it’s just that laws don’t always apply the same to nonprofits.

            1. Claire*

              I also think that people tend to mention that they’re working at non-profits while people rarely mention that they’re working at for-profit companies, so if you have 10 people complaining about poor enforcement of business laws and 5 of them work for non-profits, 3 of the people at non-profits will specify and the other 7 won’t mention their sector, thus giving the impression of non-profits being worse. I’m curious about whether non-profits are genuinely more dysfunctional or if it’s just reporting bias.

              1. Batty Twerp*

                That might be because they’re (either the letter writers or the NFPs they work for) looking for caveats that might explain certain behaviour.
                Like, of course we dont get donuts as a perk, we’re a non-profit. Or, can they make us do these borderline illegal working hours because it’s a non-profit and we should really be volunteering our time so that the sponsors’ money goes directly to this worthy cause.
                Actually, if you look at the definition logically, not for profit does not necessarily equal charity. It just means that the purpose of the organisation is something other than to put money in the shareholder’s pockets, but the money has to come from somewhere and can be spent perfectly fine within the remit of whatever the cause is. You can have a NFP which makes widgets, just as long as the money from the sale of widgets goes back into the business.

                (Sorry, I’ve rather forgotten my point)

                1. Working for the man (because he pays)*

                  The whole “you shouldn’t work for money, you should work for the cause!” is why I got out of non-profits. My landlord still wants money and the grocery store won’t give me food for the cause.

              2. Spero*

                Also, as a non profit worker I read this blog in part because of how frequently non profit issues are addressed. Much of the ‘advice’ from other workplace books/columns doesn’t really apply in my industry, and I really appreciate having a good source that often does apply! I’ve mentioned it to several friends and the ones who are already aware of it tend to be non profit or academia.

  1. salty and proud*

    I agree completely, but taking this approach seems like a fantastic way to become a part of the 25% of people to be laid off. (And, while there’s a good argument that laying LW off after they speak up constitute retaliation, what’s stopping the employer from claiming that LW was originally slated to be laid off anyway?)

    I wonder if there isn’t a more strategic way to do this. Make a burner email and send an anonymous note to the decision-maker here, saying that you’ll report anonymously to your local labor board unless this is rectified?

    1. AppleStan*

      Honestly, I worry about this for OP…I can easily see her retroactively becoming part of the 25%.

    2. Stormfeather*

      At this point though it sounds like the people being laid off have already been announced, since it was supposed to be yesterday. That would at least make it more obvious they’re illegally retaliating (at least, one would assume it’s illegal).

      1. salty and proud*

        Even if LW has an open-and-shut case for retaliation, it’s perfectly reasonable to not want to go through a possibly year-long, protracted court battle. No one would fault LW if they decided the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.

        1. Stormfeather*

          Yeah, true. But the specific case of “oh you were always part of the 25% getting laid off” at least is already gone by. Yeah though, totally wouldn’t blame the LW of still going a more anonymous route.

    3. Asenath*

      She might already be part of the 25% or she might become part of it if she complains. But that doesn’t mean she can’t or shouldn’t act against an illegal act like that. Anonymous notes don’t get taken seriously because the author can’t be identified and so can’t provide actual evidence of what she says. I think I’d go straight to whichever local authority enforces labour laws – and if I were moved to the 25% (instead of being in that group already) I’d report retaliation. Even if I never got any compensation or even acknowledgement of retaliation, I’d be eligible for unemployment insurance, out of reach of whatever this employer is going to think of next, and hunting for something else. Bad as being unemployed is, having money I have legally earned taken from me is worse.

      1. salty and proud*

        >But that doesn’t mean she can’t or shouldn’t act against an illegal act like that.

        I have to disagree. While I think you have every right to your opinion:

        >Bad as being unemployed is, having money I have legally earned taken from me is worse.

        It’s up to LW to decide for themselves if the prospect of near-certain unemployment is worse than a week’s worth of illegally reduced wages. It’s very understandable if LW feels that what’s best for themselves and their family is to swallow their tongue.

      2. MegPie*

        “Bad as being unemployed is, having money I have legally earned taken from me is worse”

        This single mom would have to disagree with you, as would the massive amount of workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

        1. Koala dreams*

          It would depend, wouldn’t it? If you first had money taken from you, and then lost your job in the big layoff, it would’ve been better to at least have the full paycheck for your last period. Also, in some places the unemployment amount depends on your wages prior to being unemployed, so it might be better to lose your job at the higher pay.

    4. OP*

      OP here, your concern about brining this to the attention of HR and it risking being included in that 25% was also a concern of mine. When I wrote this, I had a good feeling the answer was no, it’s not illegal, and I shared that with some coworkers, one of whom emailed HR on Friday about it.

      Yesterday, we received an updated email from the head of HR, saying the reductions would start on 4/13, not 4/6 as originally stated (still doesn’t align with what Alison stated, though). I did survive the layoffs, but the person who went to HR did not. I don’t know if the two are related, but as you said, how do you prove that? But it’s also why I didn’t want to play that card until/if I needed to. Now I’m left with a significant reduction in pay with the expectation that I pick up the work now left by laid off coworkers. It’s just crappy all around and really demoralizing how it all went down.

      1. BethRA*

        Yeah, I think the next (anonymous) email goes to a local news station. Or the NLRB if you’re in the US.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Yes, definitely send to the news station. At least if the companies get publically shamed, they might change their ways.

        2. Alli525*

          This. My brother’s parent company is owned by a well-known billionaire (probably not the one that anyone will think of, though) and wasn’t been giving employees the emergency benefits they were explicitly promised, so workers went to the media – actually a national publication in this case, but local media matters too – and the billionaire started doing what he had promised as a result of the article.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            It blows that they have to be publicly shamed to do the right thing. Selfish, spoiled old dragons.

            I wish I had billions of dollars. I don’t give a rip about mega-mansions or yachts but I do care that people can eat and get medical care.

      2. Mazzy*

        Not that I’m an expert in how everything operates but from my experience, companies will not retaliate against someone going to HR for this. Also, the lay-off list was probably set in stone beforehand

          1. fposte*

            Hey, that’s kind of mean. We’re all stressed; let’s not take it out on one another.

            1. Fikly*

              Apologies. I am frustrated that every time I see one of their comments, it’s very much in the vein of employers never act with ill intentions, when reality is very much different. However, it was not right to comment the way I did.

        1. OP*

          I wish I could agree with you here. Sadly I went to HR at a previous company and was subsequently laid off (turned out later the HR rep and my manager were golfing buddies). I did end up hiring a lawyer in that case for retaliation and won, but right now, I’m not sure this warrants the risk – especially since I was spared from the layoffs.

          1. Mazzy*

            Well the details of the previous case you went through were probably more involved and different. This looks like someone made an error out of negligence and they had to walk it back and someone probably felt dumb that they had to, but you don’t go our and try to coordinate an effort to fire someone over pointing out a simple error like this. Yes, apparently people are responding like it happens all of the time, but I’ve seen similar, though not identical situations before, and there is never a grand conspiracy against a person unless a bunch of other stuff was going on at the same time. If someone was laid off, even now, I’m sure a manager or director or VP has thought about who is vital and who is dispensable long before this. I highly doubt that they’ve never thought about or talked about these things before coronavirus, often these things just end up getting discussed when you’re talking about giving someone a raise or shifting work around or hiring someone with higher ups.

          2. Aglaia761*

            I’ve successfully filed an anonymous labor/payroll complaint in my state. I called them first and talked to someone who walked me through what they needed. They also told me exactly how to submit the complaint and who to send it to.

            I stayed there for another 6 months or so before I found another job. I didn’t get any blowback and the policy that triggered my complaint was quietly dropped.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          hahahahaha.
          Of course they will, omg, any employer that doesn’t give a frickfrack about illegally cutting pay without notice is not going to care about retaliating (HR knows it’s illegal even if the brainiacs that came up with this dumbass plan didn’t)

        3. Massmatt*

          Does your experience really include people reporting illegal acts announced by the CEO to HR?

          I personally know people who HAVE been retaliated against for reporting illegal activity (sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and failure to oversee client funds) to HR, and this blog has been full of them.

          1. Quickbeam*

            Oh yes…me too! In many places, HR is the guardian of the company, not necessarily a resource for worker issues.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              HR protects the company. Workers are part of the company, until they aren’t anymore.

              Good HR protects the company by making sure the company follows all applicable labor laws and isn’t otherwise a terrible place to work.

              Bad HR protects the company by firing employees who speak up about labor laws or pointing out other issues that make the company a terrible place to work.

              I have worked with both types of HR.

        4. Amethystmoon*

          Um…I already work for a company that retaliated against a former coworker for using FMLA. They will retaliate for anything if they think they can get away with it.

        5. RussianInTexas*

          I wish I could have such trust in HR and goodwill of companies.
          I do not. At all.

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        Woooow. While what Mazzy said above is usually true about layoff lists, the fact that your coworker was let go after bringing this illegal act up with HR definitely looks suspect.

      4. W&H Lady*

        OP-
        If this thing goes on for several more months and they try to threaten retroactive pay reduction again, consider contacting your state wage and hour division, even if you simply leave a “tip,” instead of filing a formal claim, especially if you’re worried about keeping confidentiality. Many states have teams that conduct employer wide investigations, but consider that states don’t always have great funding or resources, so employer wide investigations are usually undertaken at the discretion of the department. If the department chooses to investigate, you might still benefit. (You can always consult an attorney as well, if you prefer).

        Regardless, keep an eye on it- sometimes when employers are ok with one illegal thing, they are ok with taking other liberties as well, like unlawful deductions from pay or not paying out vacation pay. I realize that we are living in unprecedented times, but there are ways that employers can get by, particularly the large ones (loans, government assistance, etc). And yes, even non-profits. (I might argue especially non-profits if they are receiving a large chunk of government funding in the first place).

        Signed, a state wage and hour employee

    5. SDSmith82*

      I would actually just go straight to the labor board in this case. If you get fired, there might be Whistle-blower protections for retaliation and I’d skip the niceties/warnings at this point. I’ve also been through too many crappy bosses, so I have little tolerance for this kind of crap.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’ve semi-often had the approach of “there’s the law and then there’s what you actually need to do to get s**t done”. One approach here would be even if strictly illegal: how much in dollars (or whatever currency) is the difference in 8 days pay on old and new rate — compared to the cost of rocking the boat, losing the job, and potentially being out of work for a longer time than they would be normally due to other potential employers not recruiting due to this virus etc.

      It may be different in the States, but I’ve had to take the “bird in the hand” approach here a few times in my life. I don’t advocate for blindly rolling over and acquiesce to whatever capitalist-advancing nonsense your employer comes up with this week,,, but there are times to strategically do that.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        What? No. In the States you can report a wage complaint to the Labor Board and they’ll investigate the claim and fine the employer. The Labor Board can take an anonymous complaint and the company doesn’t get to find out who told. This can be done. I’ve done this (although I’d be shocked if I was the only one who reported the company because what they did was egregiously bad and involved defrauding the unemployment office).

    7. MsChanandlerBong*

      Honestly, this is the problem with most laws designed to protect people from something, be it bad employers or bad landlords. Sure, it’s great that I can sue my landlord for not fixing the broken heat, but if I sue him/her, I risk losing my housing. If I don’t have a place lined up and the money to move, then I’m going to end up homeless or couch surfing. Same thing with employers. Sure, you can try to make the law work for you, but unless you have savings or a job opportunity elsewhere, you’re putting your income at risk.

        1. Lily*

          KoiFeeder, I am swiping your perfect comment for use in other situations. I will credit you.

  2. TeapotNinja*

    You can’t win this argument, whether it is illegal or not.

    If your employer can’t cut the pay as announced, it’ll just be cut x% more moving forward to cover the difference.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That doesn’t mean it’s OK to illegally change the terms of the agreement retroactively for work already done. If they need to save $X, then they need to figure out how to do that LEGALLY, and so that people have a chance to say nope, I’m out. Not likely in this climate, but some people who were close to retirement and still feel like they have enough to do so might jump ship.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, if unemployment funding is tied to OP’s salary at dismissal… better to be laid off at the original rate than keep quiet and be out in the next round of layoffs.

  3. HRParksHere*

    No. They absolutely can not do this. This is very sloppy work and planning on someone’s part as well. Any time I change someone’s pay, a demotion for example, I always have them sign knowledge of the pay decrease BEFORE the effective date. Also, they should have held off on the announcement until the new rates were calculated. Did they lay off the HR person or do you have an incompetent HR department?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Maybe they’re a small enough non-profit where they don’t actually have an HR department?

      1. fposte*

        It’s a “national nonprofit based in the U.S. with offices across the country.” Honestly, at that size they should have had a lawyer involved.

        1. HRParksHere*

          Most Non-Profits or small agencies without HR would have consulted an attorney or have an outsourced HR resource for just this reason.

    2. OP*

      OP here, we do have an HR department. Yesterday we received an email from the head of HR telling us the reduction would begin on 4/13, not 4/6 as originally stated in the email. I survived the layoffs, and got my reduction letter and signed it this morning. While I recognize based on Alison’s response, it still wouldn’t legally go into effect until Wednesday, I’m not sure fighting the two days is worth it at this point. But I’m keeping documentation of everything.

      1. Scanon*

        That is a practical approach. Once they have had a chance to think through the legal ramifications (and maybe even consult with a lawyer), they may fix this on their own. If you do want to fight it, you can do that later – and probably more effectively since you will have more information about your employer’s plans. In the meantime you are probably better off focussing your energy on the increased work burden you now have, and possibly looking for other work.

      2. Tidewater 4-1009*

        OP, the more I think about this I think you (and everyone) should get your resume together and start looking.
        A pay cut is pretty drastic. An employer who’s not in a desperate financial situation isn’t likely to do it.
        Since they probably are desperate, they might do more pay cuts going forward, and then end up going out of business.
        I would start looking in the hope I can get out before the next pay cut. Unemployment comp is usually a percentage of your pay. The lower your pay was, the lower unemployment will be.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I have to disagree slightly, while some places have managed to avoid pay cuts, in the current economic climate many, many organizations have had to resort to pay cuts. I don’t think it is really such a drastic thing to do. Most businesses depend on sales, even someone is not in a directly impacted industry our economy is so interconnected that it has a huge ripple effect. A non-profit may not have direct sales, but fundraising is sales essentially, when companies/individuals are doing badly they are not likely to donate much to a non-profit. Even museums/nonprofits with major endowments are having to layoff staff reduce hours/pay.

          Sure if OP and others can find a new job that pays more more power to them. But I have to say the situation is bleak right now.

        2. Eukomos*

          That’s not going to be practical in a lot of industries right now. OP probably should look, but she also needs a strong backup plan for how to handle staying at this company if no other options are available.

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        It sucks but honestly you are right it really is not worth fighting this. IANAL but unless you are super highly compensated the 2 days of reduced wages will not cover any costs of bringing forth a lawsuit. Either an attorney will charge hourly and a few hours of work will be more than you lost, or lawyers who charge on contingency will not take it because the potential recovery amount will be to low. You could try to pursue this on your own but again the time and effort to do so will probably be more than what you lost. Even if they don’t retaliate against you right away, it is pretty easy to come up with a “legitimate” reason to fire/layoff someone once a little while has passed and have it not be retaliation.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Not a good look to tell someone they can’t afford legal protections. It’s not a lawsuit, it’s a wage complaint. You can file one with the Labor Board, they investigate and if they find evidence that laws were broken they compel the company to fix it and fine them. It costs nothing to file a wage complaint, it can be anonymous, everyone got a pay cut so that’s plausible deniability for LW.

          Check the statute of limitations because it doesn’t have to be filed right away. You can file the complaint whenever you have the time and energy and/or are feeling spiteful. It’s fairly low effort and low risk.

  4. Ominous Adversary*

    Publicity seems to be the only way to get bad companies to back off their terrible plans to screw their employees. Who in the media could the OP anonymously contact? The media is really hungry for these kind of stories.

    1. Anonariffic*

      Alison previously shared this reporter who was looking into companies behaving badly about coronavirus:

      Polly Mosendz
      pmosendz (at) bloomberg.net
      phone number / Signal: 339-227-1657

    2. Mazzy*

      I see a lot of people assuming malintent. Isn’t it just as or more likely that someone was negligent here?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Not appropriately vetting through legal counsel (inside or out) the plans to substantially decrease the remaining 75% of your employees’ pay is negligent, and that level of negligence signals malintent (at best, apathy to their employees and obligation to legal compliance). There is no excuse for that in a large organization.

        I don’t think my employment counsel could have read that whole letter without profane, muttered commentary.

  5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    PRINT AND SAVE THAT EMAIL.

    Do you have your paystubs? Get your paystubs now. Get all your documentation in line. Print the stub you’ll have with your reduced rate. You most likely won’t change their tune or plans by telling them they’re breaking the law but you can be prepared in the event you want to talk to an attorney or file for wage theft. Do you have your original employment letters and your salary/wage documentation? You should also have that.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      ALL OF THIS!

      Especially if OP is worried that they might get laid off in retribution for speaking up.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’d double down with anyone willing to put this in writing in the first place, keep it all in writing.

        Don’t pick up the phone and make a call, use that email chain to discuss the issue.

        1. OP*

          OP here, I do have documentation of everything including old pay stubs. I survived the layoffs, and signed my new compensation form this morning. HR sent out an email yesterday saying the cuts would start 4/13 instead of 4/6 as originally noted (someone – not me – reached out to HR on Friday about the legality of this). So while it’s only a matter of 2 days, I’m not sure it’s worth that fight right now. This pay check ends Friday, so it would have been nice of them to at least let us have our full rate though this pay check…

          1. Audiophile*

            So, instead of 3 days prior, they’re now stating the reduction in pay will start the same date as the new email they sent out??

            If that’s the case, that’s still illegal.

            I had an employer pull something similar, years ago, well before this current crisis. In my case, I was employed through a staffing agency, and one of my coworkers brought it to the attention of the client we worked for. That was enough to get our company tune. They did other shady/illegal things but this was probably one of the most egregious. I had already been job searching but increased my efforts after that.

            Definitely agree with everyone else, save all your documentation. If you decided in the future to go to your state’s department of labor and file a complaint. Also, the co-worker that was laid off should get in touch with the DOL as well.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It’s all about what you want to fight for in the end, you don’t have to be a champion for everyone else, that’s for sure.

            But this place is shady and shitty. I don’t care if they’re saving lives somewhere along the way, they’re unethical and nothing makes up for hurting your employees just by your other good-deed-doing on the flip side. I hope you are able to get out of there and find somewhere with an equally as great mission and leadership with morals!

          3. Bilateralrope*

            How long do you have to make a complaint about wage theft ?

            Because if I were in your position, I’d collect all the evidence and store it. Then start searching for a new job.

            Once I’m no longer working there, their options for retaliation have been greatly reduced. So that’s when I file my complaint.

  6. Merry*

    Would this apply for a bonus for extra work done? My husband thought he’d get a big bonus based on the comp structure they had previously, but has since been told the bonus will be much smaller. He was told this after the work was done, but before getting his paycheck. Not his salary though, so not sure if this is different.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Bonus structures are regularly built so that they’re able to be changed without notice, so it would depend on how the policy is worded. That’s why people go with a bonus structure, much easier to manipulate at the last minute than wages.

      1. Humbug*

        Exactly why I’ve been pushing for a wage increase, and why my boss tells me my extra effort/increased responsibility will be recognized in my bonus. Normally bonuses are very generous, but I wanted *regular, non-flexible* pay for my work. And now… :-|

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Bonuses aren’t typically obligated to be paid out – they’re usually discretionary – so I don’t think your husband would have a case here.

    3. That'll happen*

      Did your husband sign an employment contract or any kind of documentation agreeing to the bonus structure? For example, is it in the employee handbook? If not, there probably isn’t much he can do, as bonuses are typically considered discretionary income. I’m assuming the bonus is on top of his regular salary, and he’s not working a commission-based job. But if it’s a large enough sum of money, it might be worth it to consult with an employment lawyer as to the legality of this.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I was going to ask the same thing. At my last company, my offer letter stated “bonus up to X% of salary” the key words being “up to”.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      Bonuses are totally different, which is part of why companies use them. They are not held to the same retroactive pay reduction laws, but I would check any letters or other salary agreements for exact wording.

    5. Consultant Catie*

      Of course this depends on your husband’s bonus structure and how his employment agreement is worded, but I work for an international consulting firm (US-based) who announced recently that our bonuses and promotions would be affected and would be lower than years past. They basically positioned it as, we’re changing bonuses and promotions/raises first so that layoffs are an absolute last resort. All this is to say that they definitely consulted with legions of attorneys before announcing this, so if your husband’s bonuses are set up like mine, it’s legal.

  7. TheDreamer*

    This happened at my partner’s agency as well — they backdated at least a week. Partner pushed back, and they acquiesced in their one case, but said they would reduce pay later instead (which… also seems legally sketchy?)– and proceeded with retroactive cuts for everyone else. Of course, the employees are too afraid for their jobs to say anything, and the bosses are fully embodying the stance of “you’re lucky to have a job at all, so we’ll do whatever we want!” It’s so disheartening.

    1. Fikly*

      I love how employers have this idea that employing people is a charitable act. In exchange for employing people, they are getting work product that their company/etc needs to function and survive. It’s a business arangement, not a charity.

      1. Jay*

        Sadly, there are many places here in the US where employers do in fact think of it as a charity. It’s usually associated with the stricter of the Protestant denominations in and around the Southeast and Deep South. They like to use the phrase “The Gift Of Labor”. The general gist is that God put people on this earth to work. Lack of work leads to moral corruption and eternal damnation. Therefore, by allowing us to work for them, they are giving our lives meaning and purpose and saving our very souls. Any money they may give us on top of that should be entirely optional and we should be forever grateful to them for all they have “given” us. It’s an argument that has been used since middle ages England to justify the enslavement of minorities (especially Africans), women, and the poor. One of my first bosses used to quote that crap at me all the time.

  8. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    I had a major corporation with an HR department try to do this to me. The CFO decided my pay was too high and HR announced they would cut my pay starting back at my first day two weeks previous. I called the state DOL and they honestly didn’t care and told me to get a lawyer. They eventually realized that wasn’t entirely legal, but still gave me a 40% pay cut that I managed to negotiate up from 60%.
    I can totally believe they’re trying to get away with this.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I know it’s a cost thing but I would suggest always going to a lawyer and avoiding trying to address things with the DOL.

      The DOL also won’t collect interest and penalties that you’re technically entitled within the laws. They’re overworked and only take on cases that they can in turn flip their own fines and interest from. In the end, the DOL is funded by businesses and therefore they let a lot of shit slide to put it bluntly. Yeah…I’m bitter and still angry.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        In much of the country (and on the national level) the enforcement bodies are deliberately underfunded to the point of being toothless.

      2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        Unfortunately, I was a poor student and couldn’t afford to lose my summer job all together. That’s how they get away with this BS.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Argh, yeah. That’s why companies do this too because they know what it costs to fight them on their illegal activity.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        I’ve only had good experiences reporting wage claims to the DOL (in two different states). Then again, the issues I’ve reported affected entire workplaces and were built on policies that had been going on for years, so maybe that’s why it made sense for them to pursue.

    2. TardyTardis*

      I expect a lot of companies will use the pandemic to hose their employers because jobs will be so scarce for a while. I suspect many companies have deeply resented having to pay a decent wage just to get workers, and now, at last is the day of their revenge. Many companies did use 2008 to trim their workforce and dump two people’s extra work on the third worker remaining, and weren’t actually hurting that bad to begin with.

  9. Someone Else*

    Also, this might affect the loan they want. The law says that Businesses must retain employees at salary levels comparable to before the crisis. The dates for qualification go back to when the crisis started, so even if they don’t apply until after the lay off and salary cuts, they won’t qualify because the window for qualifying starts at March 1.

    1. Mouse*

      I think there’s a threshold for cuts though–I’m hearing that anything less than 25% doesn’t count? There’s so much misinformation, though, so take that with several grains of salt.

      1. bishbah*

        My understanding is that any degree of staffing cut affects the portion of the loan that is forgivable. I don’t think that the specifics of the calculations are determined yet. But to qualify for full forgiveness, you are expected to retain 100% of your staff and to spend at least 75% of the loan on payroll. You are allowed to rehire people you already laid off to get back up to 100%, though. I’m not sure if it has to be the same exact people or just the same headcount and payroll cost.

        1. Mouse*

          I think you’re right in terms of headcount, but to clarify, I think pay cuts only count as reductions if they’re past that threshold as a percentage of the prior salary.

          1. OP*

            OP here, all I’ve read is that from date of loan origination, you must keep all staff, or rehire by June 30th. I’m certainly no expert here, but I guess I was thinking that if they do the layoffs prior to the loan originating, then forgiveness would look at what headcount was on origination day vs 8 weeks post origination. I hadn’t seen anything about rate of pay being maintained, so that’s an interesting fact. And if that falls within the “must be no more than 25%,” then they are skirting that because they said the highest pay cuts would be 25% with most of them (including what mine ended up being) at 20%.

            1. bishbah*

              It really doesn’t make sense to reduce headcount and salaries before getting a PPP loan, because that will consequently reduce the loan amount, which is calculated at 2.5x monthly payroll. If you use an older payroll total to apply for a higher loan amount and don’t then spend (at least 75% of) that money on payroll over the eight-week period, it won’t be forgiven. Could the organization be applying for an EIDL instead of a PPP? It doesn’t have the same restrictions.

              1. OP*

                Possibly. And again, my assumptions here are just that. I have no proof of their reasoning, just trying to add up the facts I do have. Though, based on our size, the PPP seems like it would be the one they would apply for. I just know it was said they were applying for one of the loans offered as part of CARES Act. And maybe their intent isn’t to have it forgiven. Nothing says they can’t take out a loan with the anticipation of paying that loan back, so the stipulations don’t matter at that point.

                1. SwirlyMuppet*

                  That is a good point. The loan rate is 1% (which is pretty low), it doesn’t have to be paid on at all for 6 months (and no interest accrued), and it’s unsecured. Even if they don’t apply for full forgiveness, it’s still a pretty great loan.

      2. longtime lurker*

        So, I’ve been very involved in the PPP application for the small business that I work for, and I think I understand it pretty well. There are a LOT of variables, and also the rules keep changing, but more or less…
        1) The total amount of the loan the company can get is based on average payroll costs* over a 12-month prior period (either calendar-year-2019, or the 12 months prior to the loan date, depending on which version of the rules you read). So pay cuts NOW won’t affect the total loan amount.
        2) Loan FORGIVENESS will be based on -actual costs paid out- during the 8 weeks following the loan. This amount has to be a least 75% spent on payroll, and the other 25% can be spent on other essential business costs like rent and utilities. So if they don’t actually -spend- all of the the loan money (due to the pay cuts and/or layoffs), then this would definitely reduce the total forgivable amount.
        3) But, the * from above: the “monthly average” calculation is subject to a per-employee cap of $100K/year. So if there are highly compensated employees involved, then the loan is likely to be less than your actual total payroll costs. It’s not entirely clear to me yet whether the “actual costs” forgivable total calculation is also subject to the same cap; I think it probably should be but… waiting to confirm that. IF it is not subject to that cap, then that’s a pretty big loophole for some companies to definitely spend the full loan amount on “forgivable” payroll costs.
        4) Then, the forgiven amount is also reduced if (a) they lose headcount (as compared to the average headcount during the 12-month lookback period, NOT as compared to the date of the loan) and don’t hire them back by June 30, and/or (b) they cut salaries by 25% or more and don’t raise them back up by June 30. So it sounds like OP’s company IS most likely going to have their forgivable amount reduced by at least 25% based on headcount, and possibly more based on the salary cuts — unless they rehire and restore salaries by June 30.
        4a) But, again with that $100K salary cap thing. This may or may not be relevant to OP, but if we were talking about people earning a bunch more than $100K/yr to begin with, then if the pay cuts don’t bring them below that threshold then these pay cuts might not matter. I’m a little fuzzy on this part, too. The salary cap is complicated!
        5) But: even if the entire loan doesn’t get forgiven, it’s STILL a really good deal for the company because it’s a very low interest loan. Especially if they’re in an industry that’s really hurting from all the COVID stuff, it does make business sense to BOTH try to maximize the loan amount, AND try to reduce costs as much as possible right now.

        Of course this doesn’t excuse them for the shitty and illegal way they announced they were reducing costs… but. It would be an oversimplification to say “pay cuts right now are stupid if you’re applying for a PPP loan.” They might understand all of this and be making a calculated decision to try to get the proceeds from the low-interest loan to last longer by cutting payroll now.

    2. MoopySwarpet*

      TL/DR: they either got denied for the loan or are shooting themselves in the foot for “forgiveness” of the loan.

      Caveat: I think non-profits are under the same rules for the PPP loan, but not positive.

      For the PPP loan specifically, the amount is 2.5 times the average month of payroll in 2019 (with copies of the company’s IRS filings to support that). The amount that can be forgiven is based on how you spend the loan AND employee headcount remaining the same AND compensation levels remaining the same.

      The 8 week period that they base the payroll and headcount on starts the day the loan is made. The comparison period can be either Feb 15 – June 30 2019 or Jan 1 to Feb 29 2020 (at the borrower’s discretion). This is a monthly average. The headcount has to be restored by June 30.

      So . . . if they just received the loan, they would be jeopardizing their ability to have the loan forgiven. I think it’s more likely they were denied or do not qualify for some reason.

      Side note about the amount forgiven: 75% must be used for “payroll costs,” which is only gross payroll to employees, NOT taxes paid by the company. In order to receive 100% forgiveness, employers are going to have to give bonuses or hire people since they are receiving roughly 50% more than they need to cover payroll, but can only use 25% of it for other qualifying expenses.

      1. OP*

        All interesting points. My assumptions on their behavior around the loan is just that – assumptions put together based on what I do know. Not much is being shared other than they were applying for one of the CARES act loans, and then just enough to make us all have horrible holiday weekends this past weekend.

      2. SweetestCin*

        Or they’ve given up on actually getting the loan. The application roll out for the PPP was an abject dumpster fire from what I could tell (from personal contacts who are SB owners, including spouse). Biggest financial institutions on the US couldn’t do anything when the application period opened because the SBA still owned them information.

        Don’t recall specifics with non-profits (wouldn’t have been on our exact radar), but the rest of what is mentioned lines up with my understanding of PPP too, though I’m just sitting here as spouse and helping take notes. The discretion of the lender with regard to the comparison period scares me, and we’ve found no guidance there. Company grew significantly between those two periods of time…what happens if the lender decides to go with the smaller payroll period even though the company grew by a factor of 3 in every metric (employee count, payroll, facility size, revenue, accounts) between the earlier and more recent?

            1. SweetestCin*

              Thank you. I had missed that. So did my better half, who is pulling close to 18 hour days right now, between actual work and attempting to get loans and such in place so there aren’t layoffs. The guidance provided to small businesses is just not there right now – nobody knows what’s going on, nobody knows answers, and the delays are eating into the savings cushion at a high rate.

      3. HappyAdventure*

        MoopySwarpet sums it up well—they can’t cut employee pay more that 25%, and the amount of the loan forgiven will be reduced by the percentage that they reduce employees (so if they fire 20% of their employees, only 80% of the loan eligible for forgiveness will be forgiven).

  10. carrie heffernan*

    At the end of March we got word we’d be getting a 10% cut in salary as of 4/15, so they gave us a lot of notice and we all appreciated that. 10% pay cut sucks but it is temporary and I’m grateful to still have a job.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      We were told April 1 and they won’t go into effect until April 24 so we also got a lot of notice. We also get an unpaid day off in exchange for that 10% cut (and they are serious about us not working that day) so I’m even more appreciative of how they do it. Now if the weather would at least get nice so I could be alone outside on my deck.

    2. President Porpoise*

      This happened to us today. A segment of our company got 10% reduction for a temporary set time period, plus 15 additional days of scheduled PTO – basically a day a week for the whole summer. While I’m not thrilled by this, I am glad to at least not be in the segment of employees in my company that got furloughed. I would much rather, of course, be in the segment whose pay and schedule are unaffected.

      For those that wonder, the structure is due to a recent major (long planned) org change and the job duties/customers of those affected. It sucks, but it is completely understandable, and mostly fair.

    3. many bells down*

      I’m at a nonprofit and we’re covered until the end of our fiscal year, but after that who knows? Maybe I won’t have a job in July.

    4. OP*

      OP here, I completely understand the need for the cuts. We’re in unprecedented times. It’s the manor in which they were handled. Within the span of three weeks, we were told, all was well and people would be getting annual raises to laying off 1/4th of the company and the rest taking significant pay cuts. I survived the layoffs, but took a 20% pay cut with no end date given. Also, these are just pay cuts – no furloughs, so it prevents us from being able to file for any partial unemployment to help offset the pay cuts, while expecting us to pick up the work of those let go. What we do is actually really important and significant right now with the CV19 crisis. I don’t want to do anything that would negatively effect our constituents, but really wish the whole situation had been handled differently.

  11. NaN*

    Is this also true for pay increases? When my company does raises, they’re effective on the first day of the month, but we don’t find out what the number are until right before the next paycheck on the 15th.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You can usually give someone “more” of anything without letting someone know, you just can’t give them less.

    2. On a pale mouse*

      If you’re looking for leverage to get them to tell you sooner, I doubt you have it from any legal considerations. You might have other types of leverage depending on your role and how much capital you have. If your raise is based on performance, your manager should be talking to you about it before it happens anyway, and that might be something you can bring up. If it’s just across the board X% cost of living increases, and they’re just not telling you X ahead of time, I don’t think there’s much you can do, and it probably wouldn’t be worth it anyway.

      1. On a pale mouse*

        Meant to add, unless you have a contract that specifies that you must be notified of changes in advance or something like that.

  12. Coroverit*

    You are not alone! I’m a contractor, in the UK. Today I got an email informing me that the agency I’m employed through – so not my client – is asking all contractors to accept a 25% pay cut (because COVID). Retroactive to 1 April. I have declined their (completely illegal) offer. If they end my contract, they don’t get paid anything at all for my services, so I am prepared to play chicken on this one. But so frustrated that I have to.

    1. OP*

      OP here, I hate hearing I’m not alone. That really sucks! We really didn’t have any leverage. I did at least survive the layoffs, but took a significant pay cut. I hope it works out better for you!

    2. TardyTardis*

      A lot of companies are still looking back to 2010 when they could pay very little and still have plenty of applicants, and resented having to pay real money in the last couple of years. Of course they’re taking advantage now.

  13. Cobol*

    Honestly. I’d wait if you can afford it. They’re big enough to know what they are doing isn’t legal, and you may get caught in the layoffs if you push back now. When you leave, sue for back wages, plus interest and lawyer’s fees.

  14. CupcakeCounter*

    Oh look! Another place I need the name of so I know who NOT to donate to in the future!

    1. OP*

      OP here, I hear your frustration. While all of this has been handled very poorly, I ask you to look at the big picture when donating to nonprofits and not just at this. What we do is actually really important and significant in during this crisis. Selfishly I’m upset and now struggling financially, but those we do work for and support still need us and I believe in the cause. Those people still need the financial support so that we can continue to help them as well. I believe things work themselves out and those making the poor decisions will eventually work themselves out too. I don’t know if I’ll stay on with this company, but I certainly don’t want to negatively impact those helped by this nonprofit.

      1. Fikly*

        This is a generous position.

        Organizations that act unethically in one area tend to act unethically in other areas. While there may be different people in charge of different areas, ultimately, the culture – and more importantly, who is making hiring decisions – all comes from the same place, and the same values tend to be reinforced throughout.

        Also, it’s not selfish to be upset that your employer is attempting to cut your pay illegally.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Another org may be able to do this work, and do it legally.

        The org may be doing important work, OP, but if they can’t do it ethically and legally, they don’t deserve to be in business. I personally want to know which nonprofits treat their workers like crap — they don’t deserve my donation, and there are lots of organizations that behave properly.

        Nonprofits can be really bad about this: the mission is important, the people they help desperately need it, and so…we treat our workers like crap. It’s not enough for the mission to be good, you know? How they run the business matters too.

      3. Koala dreams*

        How the non-profits treat their employees, and if they follow the laws, are parts of the big picture. It’s very community spirited to care for ethical and law-abiding non-profits, and for some people, that’s important when giving money. No matter how good the cause is, it doesn’t absolve the organization from their responsibility as employers.

      4. Risha*

        OP, it’s not selfish to be upset by this, or to demand that your nonprofit treat its employees well. Having a good mission isn’t enough by itself to make it a worthy organization. The road to hell and all that.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This isn’t a healthy outlook. You don’t “help” others at the expense of yourself in this kind of way. That’s dangerous and will end up with you being in a very precarious spot personally unless you actively pledge yourself to poverty.

      6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        As others have said, it’s unlikely that your employer is the only organization doing this kind of work.

        One of the reasons I donate to Doctors without Borders instead of the Red Cross is that the Red Cross treated one of my relatives badly when he worked for them. I didn’t look at that and decide not to donate for disaster relief, but I did decide that I wasn’t going to contribute, in however small a way, to the salaries of the executives who cut everyone’s salary and benefits (non-retroactively, so it was legal).

      7. Stormfeather*

        Just want to say… no “selfishly” about it. You just had your company give you a significant cut in the amount of money you use to do minor things like, y’know, keep yourself sheltered and fed, with very little warning, and attempting to do it in a skeevy and flat out illegal manner. There is nothing selfish about being upset by that!

  15. Clementine*

    Although this is all technically correct advice, if the OP pushes back, then the company can just make a larger percentage pay cut going forward, and end up in the same place. So I question what will be gained by fighting this entirely justified battle.

    1. Asenath*

      What is gained is preventing the employer from breaking the law – they are essentially stealing from the employee if they pay them less that was agreed for work that was completed in the past – and incidentally causing the employee budget problems, since said employee doubtless has plans for that earned money. It’s the same thing if you buy a widget every week. There’s a big difference between telling you that next week the widget will cost $100 more, and charging the extra $100 to your credit card for the widget you bought last week at what was then the correct price. If there’s enough fuss about this pay theft, that employer won’t do it again, and maybe others won’t try. If they need to cut the money they give their employees, they have to find a legal way to do it.

  16. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    So combining this letter with the earlier one about employees collecting unemployment after voluntarily quitting, I have a question. Can you collect unemployment if you quit because a company forces a pay cut on you? After all the company is the one changing the deal and forcing the employee to “take it or leave it” due to no fault of the employee (a demotion due to performance is a very different situation and presumably the employee would be doing an easier job for less pay not the same job for less pay). And where does it end? I’ve seen people on here talking about 10% and 25% pay cuts. If that is okay, then why not 50%? 99%? What about 99%? Can a company reduce your pay to 1% of what you were making, but then deny you unemployment because you voluntarily quit?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve done some lowkey research on this since it’s coming up here so much.

      It really depends on the state for sure but it’ll depend on the reduction, where that brings you to, along with if you’re exempt or not. Most of what I’m seeing is it’s not likely you’ll be eligible for unemployment.

      Also quitting right now is going to put you in a huge disadvantage even if you do qualify. People are waiting weeks and could turn into months to get their payouts and they had much clearly circumstances. I would never advise someone to try to go the unemployment route at this time if they can help it.

      Use this as a reason you leave this shithole but don’t bounce unless it’s a matter of life or death.

      1. OP*

        I looked at the numbers – what would I get at my reduced rate (20% less) compared to what unemployment is currently paying with the additional $600/week for CV19. For me, financially, it was better to keep my job right now. I’m looking at and applying to other jobs, because financially I’m not hurting, but I agree, it’s better to have a job. And in fact, I’m actually sending a lot of the jobs I’m finding to those who lost their jobs yesterday to apply to first.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Apply yourself. If you leave, a former-co-worker might be offered the job back.

    2. Lady Heather*

      I suspect that if the unemployment insurance has a jobseeking requirement, you won’t be eligible: you’re essentially being fired at your old rate, but offered a job at a lower rate. In my country, unemployment insurance would cover part of the difference.

      E.g. you make 1000 currency/time, that means unemployment would be 600 c/t. If you are offered a job for 500 c/t, unemployment insurance would pay you 100 c/t until UI runs out.

      I’m not in the US – but it seems like a sensible enough rule that it might be similar in more countries.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The jobseeking requirement is being waived by a lot of U.S. states right now due to COVID-19.

      2. Risha*

        Generally speaking, US states don’t require you to accept whatever you’re offered until you’ve been unemployed for a long time. If you’re laid off and are immediately offered a comparable job at half your previous rate, you’re under no obligation to take that just to keep your unemployment.

    3. doreen*

      The company can contest your unemployment whenever they want to – but they don’t get to just deny it, that’s up to the whatever government agency handles unemployment. At some point, a big enough pay cut is going to be deemed a constructive discharge, although I’m not sure whether it would be a larger or smaller percentage now than it was a year ago and I suspect that a whether it’s a temporary vs permanent pay cut makes a difference.

      And of course, something that has to figure into the decision to quit rather than accept a pay cut is the ability to get another job. Salespeople at my husband’s company ( they aren’t commissioned) took a temporary 20-33% pay cut and management got cut 40%. And some of the salespeople are talking about quitting and how the company can’t enforce the no-compete if they quit because of the paycut. OK, maybe all that’s true – but all the other companies in the area pay straight commission. They didn’t have to cut anyone’s pay because their pay automatically dropped as their sales dropped. So I’m not sure where these people think they are going to get jobs paying their former salary.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      To answer your question about the limits.

      The limit is mimunim wage. They can’t reduce you to below minumim wage.

    5. AJ*

      In Colorado for now “Unemployment benefits are available to people who lose their jobs or suffer a significant reduction in hours or pay through “no fault of their own.””

    1. OP*

      I’m copying and pasting what I said above, because while I get where you’re coming from, shaming a company that does a lot of good only hurts those who need the help and not those who made the poor decisions.

      OP here, I hear your frustration. While all of this has been handled very poorly, I ask you to look at the big picture when donating to nonprofits and not just at this. What we do is actually really important and significant in during this crisis. Selfishly I’m upset and now struggling financially, but those we do work for and support still need us and I believe in the cause. Those people still need the financial support so that we can continue to help them as well. I believe things work themselves out and those making the poor decisions will eventually work themselves out too. I don’t know if I’ll stay on with this company, but I certainly don’t want to negatively impact those helped by this nonprofit.

      1. Lisa*

        Actually, supporting a company doing terrible things in the name of “the children” (or whomever) lets them continue to be terrible. You’re not selfish that you are now struggling financially. Stop giving yourself that message. This is wrong, you are right to be upset, those are valid feelings. It is also valid for us to be upset by their poor treatment of their employees.

        If *you* look at the big picture, I doubt that your nonprofit is the only one doing this work, especially since it is national. You ought to name them so people can donate to other (hopefully better) entities doing that work.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Yes, but that’s not necessarily the OP’s battle to fight if they don’t wish to. As she mentions, two days may not be worth the battle

        2. OP*

          I definitely will not name them. The world of NonProfits is different than private or public companies – I’ve worked at all three. Nonprofits are able to help others because people donate money. If the whole country (hell world at this point) is hurting financially, the donations dry up. Overall, this has been a great company to work for. There response to this has been handled poorly, but that’s not the constituents’ fault.

          1. Blueberry*

            I wanted to say that I really admire your generosity of spirit. I wish the company could be punished for trying such an asinine trick but I see what you mean about how the constituents would be the ones who would actually suffer if that happens. (And that you asked so Allison could tell you that what the company tried was absolutely wrong.) Thank you for doing what you do, and all good luck.

          2. Oof*

            I admire and agree with your stance. I too like to vote with my wallet, but there’s no shame in picking and choosing. It’s incredibly difficult to keep our ideals pure in a complicated world, so sometimes you just go for the good in things and support that.

          3. JessicaTate*

            I hear you, OP. The leadership of the non-profit handled this very poorly at the start. That is absolutely true. But based on your update above, it looks like when they realized what they proposed was illegal, they (mostly) fixed the retroactive issue. (You, OP, still have the right to feel crappy and upset about it!)

            Beyond that, cutting salaries 20-25% in non-profits is the current norm I’m seeing. It’s not because they are greedy; it’s because they will not have the revenue to make payroll as this progresses. They’re applying for the PPP, but that is only for two months of payroll, and even it allows for some salary reductions, because the revenue loss we are projecting is insane and uncertain. This whole situation sucks across the board, but not because the non-profit is evil. They have leadership who were insufficiently knowledgeable about legalities of payroll reductions — which is not uncommon in non-profits — and they responded (again, not perfectly, but made some move).

            They are not perfect. But without other evidence of waste, mismanagement, and/or unethical behavior, I take OP at their word that this charity — and others that are in the same boat — does truly good work and should not go under because of this one error by leadership. Maybe when it’s all over, the board should re-assess the leaders and emergency infrastructure. But it doesn’t make the charity itself the underlying problem and enough of a threshold for me to withhold donations.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        It’s NOT selfish to be upset that your employer has put you in a place where you’re struggling financially! You’re doing vital work, and it’s truly upsetting that the systems in place are not taking care of you, as you’re taking care of others.

  17. Jedi Squirrel*

    And all of those people saying, “oh but you can’t fight this, this organization will just fire you or cut salary even more” makes me really miss unions. le sigh

    1. Koala dreams*

      Yeah, the best way to push back would be as a group, such as an union. Without an existing strucure, it’s hard to organize a protest on short notice.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Anyone who is this grotesque to flagrantly break the law in writing nonetheless are union busters.

      They’ve already got the OP thinking their mission is more important than their ethics :(

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        They’ve already got the OP thinking their mission is more important than their ethics :(

        I saw that too and was disappointed. This surely can’t be the only organization that provides these services. Stockholm Syndrome is a thing.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Nobody has to negotiate with a union though. So if two of you want to band together and try, that’s a nice idea…but they’ll just say “We’re not negotiating, bye.”

        You need a majority because you need to truly threaten them with a consequence [lose your current work force as a whole at once.]. But two or three people on a big ship, not going to get much traction.

        Look at the guy who was working for Amazon that got fired for his troubles. They pinned it on him showing up on a day he was supposed to be in isolation due to their requirements since he had been exposed to a case.

  18. SweetestCin*

    Is Polly Mosendz still taking information on “employers behaving badly”? (That letter about the National sized restaurant chain coming up with a scheme to basically reduce their employees pay by whatever stimulus money they received…)

    pmosendz (at) bloomberg dot net

    Speaking of this topic – was there a follow up done on the article? Projected publication date/month? Time is very much in a vacuum right now…but darn do I wish to see a follow up.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      THIS. Send Polly an email. LW’s employer would love to see their plans made public.

  19. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

    add this place to “Companies who have been terrible to their employees during the pandemic” list!

  20. Chees*

    This seems to be more common than people realise. This also happened to me – I only knew about it when my salary deposit was short several hundred dollars. I’m on a month to month contract and HR tried to blow me off by saying pay will go back to normal eventually. I asked them if they were guaranteeing my employment til then *crickets*. If the answer is no give me my money and I’ll take my chances with another job.

    1. AntOnMyTable*

      I don’t buy the “oh it will go back to normal” line. People having to take pay cuts – who knows when it is going to go back to the usual rate. I can completely see companies keeping a lower rate for as long as they can knowing that it will be harder to find a job.

      I am nurse and we are right when we would normally be getting pay raises which clearly will not happen and won’t be made up for. We work by census and if you aren’t in a hard hit area (which is frankly almost everyone) than you have no patients. There has been no talk of cutting pay or benefits but I am getting called off for 1/3 of my shifts. I spent years accruing a good bank of PTO and now it is all evaporating and I am scared if this last too long I won’t have that to fall back on.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It happened in 2008 and no, it never bounces back. [This I can say on a personal level…I’m almost out of debt for that time period. Almost. And it’s 2020.]

      People will rack up debts believing it will rebound though…and be stuck for another ten years paying off those debts when it’s finally clear you’re not getting out of that hole when your employer increases your rates again.

      It’s not about them even giving you back the 10% or whatever is cut. You’re going to miss out on a raise or two and get deeper into the hole. That 10% is suddenly 15 or 20% when the numbers all shake out on your personal finances side.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      One thing to take heed on – if you’ve been shorted on pay – also check your 401K/savings, if you have one through work, to ensure the contributions are being made AND ensure your health insurance premiums are being paid, too. As well as IRS withholding.

      There was a company in this neck of the woods – when the managers all went to prison for horsing around with the payroll. The “aroma leaked” when the United Way didn’t receive their money.

  21. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I collected unemployment in Florida after I quit my job because my hours were drastically cut. The company was shocked and fought it, but I asked for a telephone hearing and sent the unemployment office a copy of my last several pay stubs showing the drastic cut of my hours. I won and collected.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      But this is for hours cut, not wage cuts.

      It sounds like OP will still be working their full schedule but at a reduced cost. That doesn’t fly in a lot of unemployment departments as enough of a hardship to quit.

  22. Employment Lawyer*

    Totally illegal. That’s “summary judgment for plaintiff” stuff, which almost NEVER happens.

    A few options.

    1) Wait and deal with it later when you have time (and perhaps when they have money.) As a rule you don’t need to demand wages in order to have a claim. And this is a class-action-level claim.

    2) Complain now. If so do it IN WRITING as you want to protect yourself against retaliation.

    3) Talk to a local employment attorney about making an anonymous complaint through the US DOL, state DOL, state attorney general (or other state enforcement agency) who may agree to give them a stern talking-to.

  23. Deloris Van Cartier*

    I’m in the same boat so sending lots of supportive non-profit buddy thoughts your way. I got a text message from my ED of my non-profit letting me know about pay cuts after being furloughed. The lack of communication has been rough and just a couple of months ago, they were talking about giving me a pay raise which would have been super helpful and now I’m getting a pay cut. While I’m happy to still have a job as there were layoffs, it’s frustrating as we are a small organization and this situation has just highlighted some of the negatives of working here but I don’t feel like it’s a good time to job search.

  24. StaceyIzMe*

    You have to wonder who thought that this would past muster. Are they relying on the fear of job loss for people to just roll with it? Or on the goodwill established by their nonprofit brand? It feels pretty reactionary and not at all well thought out. It’s an understandable circumstance that someone came up with the idea and thought that it might be worth pursuing (desperate times and high stress). But HOW this made it past any vetting process at all is mind boggling.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      My experience with non-profits has been that they often don’t realize that laws that cover other businesses also cover them. There are specific exceptions for non-profits, but not nearly as many as some seem to think. I agree thought that I can’t imagine rolling something like this out and not running it past an attorney. It’s one phone call.

      1. Susie Q*

        I also think they rely on people like OP (who has defended them in the comments) who get brainwashed by the cause.

  25. PPPlease*

    For the record on the PPP part – the headcount is based on your 2019 or Trailing Twelve Month average, so cutting after they’ve already applied doesn’t actually help. (Or at least that’s my current understanding. They seem to release new interpretations hourly…)

  26. Lady Farquaad*

    WTF. How can this even come up for consideration?

    This would be like a mechanic quoting you $100 for a repair job, then invoicing you for $400 after it was done without any prior communication or warning that the cost was going to increase. When it comes to money both parties have to agree on what is being given and received, otherwise there is no deal.

    Boo to your CEO.

  27. Jeffrey Deutsch*

    I’m guessing the two-legged vermin who are doing this (and probably grooming the remaining employees for escalating exploitation) are rationalizing this move: “Oh, in this job market everyone will sign off on the pay cut anyway. So consent is not an issue, it’s just a formality, and we might as well save ourselves some (more) money by adjusting the effective date backwards just a little bit.”

  28. wondHRland*

    Yeah, totally illegal. Send the suggested response, and BCC yourself so when you file a complaint with the DOL you have proof of what they did, and your response telling them it was illegal.

  29. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I’ve seen worse.

    I heard a story – not sure if it’s true – from a place I worked many years ago. They tried to put an employee on probation..

    Retroactively. To stop a transfer/promotion. If it happened, the manager’s stunt didn’t work.

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