update: our employer wants to cut our pay — retroactively

Remember the letter-writer in April whose company was planning to cut their pay retroactively? Here’s the update.

Thank you again for answering my question. The feedback from you and the commenters was both helpful and insightful! As expected, layoffs happened the day before you published my letter. We lost almost a quarter of our workforce, and the majority of those left were forced to take pretty significant pay cuts. The “somewhat less bad news” is that they changed the retroactive pay from 4/6 to 4/13. Most of us left didn’t get our new pay rates until late Monday or on Tuesday. Which means, technically they still shouldn’t have started the reduction of pay until 24 hours later. However, fighting over two days of pay wasn’t worth speaking up about it (at least to me).

About a month after the layoffs, we received a WARN Act notice stating that another mass layoff was going to happen if revenue didn’t turn around quickly. At this point, teams were created to assess what programs and offerings were most important organizationally to still serve our mission and what positions would be needed to function. The Thursday prior to July 4th holiday, we received an email letting us all know that the company would be reorganizing and the following Monday we’d each have a one-on-one meeting with our senior management to explain the new structure and the status of our employment. In these meetings, you were told either a) you were safe and slated for one of the roles in the reorganization and would not need to reapply for a position, b) you were not slated for a role; however, one of the newly created positions may be a good fit and you were encouraged to apply or c) your position was being eliminated and there weren’t any new roles for which you’d qualify. There were about 40 new positions posted the next day and you had until Friday to apply for any open position you wanted. Also, if you were slated for a role, you could still choose to apply for one of the open positions if you’d rather one of those over your slated role. However, if you chose to apply to one of the open positions, your slated position then became an open position for which others could apply. In this instance, if you were not hired into one of the new positions, you’d go into consideration for your previously slated role, but there was no guarantee you’d be hired for it if someone more qualified applied – meaning you risked being unemployed. All interviews for the new positions happened the following week and most people were told if they received one of the roles by that Friday. If you didn’t get a role, July 24th was your last day with the company.

I was slated for a role, so thankfully I knew I’d still be employed. However, my slated role was a downgrade to what I had been doing, so I took a risk and applied for a different position. I was only one of two people who gave up their slated roles. I’m happy to relay that I was chosen for a role that is a promotion to my previous role and I’m still gainfully employed! This new role will allow me to learn new things and serve in a more senior capacity, and I’m excited about it. The downside is that the Covid implications are still very real, and many of the positions were graded lower than they were previously. This could be because positions were graded higher than they should have been previously, or it could just be a reality of the current “norm”. My new role is actually a grade lower than my previous role, yet is a higher title. The scale, however, does allow for me to qualify for a pre-Covid pay increase. The kicker, though, is that while I know I’m employed, I still don’t know what my new pay will be. Pay rates are still being discussed now that they know who landed in which roles, and we have to wait to see what those offers are. Until then, I’m still working for my 20% pay decrease that went into effect on 4/13.

All of these changes happened in the span of about 2.5 weeks. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. I know the decisions made were hard for everyone involved and we still haven’t been fully informed of what the full reorg looks like (most of us only privy to our direct departments). And, while I fully recognize how un-idealistic and seemingly unfair to many this process has been, I’m thankful to still be employed at a time where so many aren’t. I’m eager to learn new things and grow my experience, and I’m hopeful that things will turn around soon enough. I also pray that those who lost jobs, both in April and this month, will be able to find something soon (and that I atleast get bumped back up to my pre-covid pay rate!).

{ 128 comments… read them below }

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      This really does sound like a mess. The company seems to have made this about as complicated and stressful as possible for the employees (although I’ll try to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they are truly a massive company and there’s no way to handle the logistics more simply).

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      Agree, especially since the “higher title” still has a smaller paycheck.

      Definitely keep the job search open.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        And a mysterious smaller paycheck. LW still doesn’t know what she will be paid in this new position! This is ridiculous.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, expecting someone to accept a new position without them knowing before hand what the salary is is beyond absurd!

        2. KateM*

          There was this year when all public school teachers in a country worked for a month while discussions about their salary were still going on. I do seem to remember a comment “could you imagine that happening with a business??”. Well, now we can.

        3. Littleloucc*

          “Pay rates are still being discussed now that they know who landed in which roles” says possible discrimination to me. A role should have an associated compensation (or at least a band) – if you’re qualified and doing the role, that’s your pay. Seeing who is in the role first implies you should pay some people differently for doing the same job.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Same. Having been through layoffs in other companies, I suggest OP keep an eye out. Just because you survive on round of layoffs doesn’t mean you’ll be OK forever, and how this company handled everything is still subpar, IMO.

    3. Garnet, Crystal Gem*

      I came here to say something similar. OP sounds understandably relieved to still be employed and with a better title at that, which I understand. This work environment and restructuring, however, sound highly chaotic and exploitative.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It truly sounds like this company is on the verge of shuttering completely. I’d get my affairs in order if I were the OP.

      2. Cj*

        Hopefully the higher title will allow him to apply for better jobs than if he hadn’t gotten this bump.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Agree. I worry that they’re planning to simply try to simply not talk about the money until OP has effectively agreed to a pay cut AND more responsibility for the foreseeable future.

  1. AnonInTheCity*

    This is the weirdest way of handling layoffs I’ve ever heard. Your employer sounds like the government of Panem staging the Hunger Games.

    1. LW*

      LW here, It’s funny you say that because just about all of us were referring to the entire situation as the hunger games. That’s exactly what it felt like and it did get rather cut throat. I have an update to the update, and will post that below in just a moment…

      1. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

        LW, did your HR person make you sit through a presentation of The Change Curve before this happened? Went through a very similar deal in 2018…

      2. A.*

        yeah uh I worked at a company where a big layoff was referred to as “the red wedding” and I’ve learned that no healthy environment has employees using terms like that to refer to stuff their employer did. I hope things look up for you soon!

        1. TardyTardis*

          This reminds me of when our company had a bunch of layoffs in mid-spring, and the phrase ‘Passover’ was used a lot…

  2. The New Normal*

    Yeah, this is still a sinking ship. OP, your normal has been skewed. Your good news is good in relation to the bad news you had been getting. But it’s still not good. I would highly encourage you to look outside your current company for security.

    1. The Spinning Arrow*

      +1! Definitely finished this letter and thought, “Bless you for your optimism, OP, but please start looking to get out of there ASAP.”

        1. LW*

          Hahaha, this genuinely made me laugh out loud. Sometimes you have to keep the exterior together to fool the interior long enough to get past bad situations.

    2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      Right. The ship has been patched while adrift in sea, but that doesn’t mean it’s strong enough to get to port. While things are stable, and before more leaks spring again, start looking for a life raft.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        And as my Dad always told me “Rats that flee a sinking ship for higher and safer ground, stand a much better chance of survival than those that stay aboard and go down with the ship.”

    3. Jamboree*

      I was trying to compose a polite response addressing this but you did it for me. OP seems, I can’t put my finger on it, but ?inappropriately upbeat? about this mess. I know she says she prays for her colleagues that got effed over and I’m not going to doubt her sincerity. But this situation, big picture, is not a good update. But she has a (smaller) paycheck instead of no paycheck, so yay?

      1. LW*

        LW here. Jamboree, your last sentence is basically the summation. I tried to supply an update that was just the facts. Believe me, I have LOTS of opinions on the entire situation and they mostly aren’t good. However, right now, I need a job because my mortgage company wants their payment. I do, however, have another update to the update, that I’ll post in a few minutes when I get a chance in the comments. You’ll love it! ;)

  3. Chicago Sky*

    Your company broke the law with the way it did the retroactive pay, has had two rounds of mass layoffs in a very short time, and had a convoluted way of setting up its restructuring. Instead of being excited, you should be looking to get out ASAP. Your company is a trainwreck. You say you recognize that you are being idealistic but what you posted says otherwise. You need to get out of there as quickly as possible.

  4. Applesauced*

    Ugh, not only is this a WEIRD way to handle layoffs (I guess, points for transparency?) but consistently timing it around holidays is odd too – enjoy your holiday weekend, cause it might be your last! muahahahah

    1. LW*

      LW here – YES!!!!! I’ve tried to be open-minded and see all sides of the picture with everything. But constantly ruining holidays is really pissing me off.

      1. Former Usher*

        At least my previous employer chose less significant US holidays to announce layoffs, like April Fools’ Day and “Tax” Day (April 15).

  5. JustKnope*

    This is a bonkers way to handle a reorg. It’s very weird that nobody knows what the full org structure looks like. Also, shouldn’t pay bands have been determined for levels… before people were in them? The exact pay might vary by individual experience, etc., but it sounds very sketchy to me that they’re still figuring out the pay piece of it. (Also, less pressing but shouldn’t every company have business continuity plans so they know exactly which components are essential and what is not before a crisis hits?)

    1. juliebulie*

      That really jumped out of me. “We won’t decide the pay until we can figure out who’s in the roles, that way we can pay as little as possible.” Feh.

      Congrats, OP. Use your improved job title for the job market.

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        Yeah how can you decide if you need to risk transfer or whatever if you don’t know what any role is going to pay?

        1. foolofgrace*

          If the OP does get interviews, if a company asks what her current salary is (which we know is a bad question), she can honestly say she doesn’t know!

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Yes to all of this, including your question. What I’m discovering with this pandemic is that many companies had no business continuity plan at all, which is deeply unsettling.

    3. Sparrow*

      And even if OP somehow gets a raise from their current rate (I wouldn’t count on it tbh) I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be retroactive to when they started the new role. They are not out of the woods – if I were OP, I would definitely continue to keep an eye out for other opportunities.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Publicly traded companies *should* run into audit issues for the lack of a business continuity plan. (Retired CPA here) However, some auditors …how to put this diplomatically?… prioritize keeping a client over the risk of a possible shareholder lawsuit someday maybe.
      Peer review is supposed to catch this, among other issues, but again we run into the question of how hard do the reviewers look for trouble, when the people they’re reviewing may be reviewing them next year.
      The fact of the matter is that BCPs are frequently out of date. A plan prepared a decade, a relocation, a merger, two system conversions, and three reorganizations/rebrandings ago is probably not going to be terribly helpful … but, hey, we have a BCP!
      Funny story: one place neglected to include “Be sure you have the key to the backup site” in their plan. They found out after evacuating. The key was still in its nice safe storage spot in the main office. Face palm.
      Another place forbade making printouts of the disaster recovery plan for system outages. So helpful!

  6. MissDisplaced*

    OMG! While I’m happy the OP still has their job, I personally would find this so beyond unacceptable and I would want to leave as soon as I was able. I know times are tough with COVID, but this was just handled so very badly from an organizational standpoint.

  7. Rectilinear Propagation*

    I understand why LW didn’t fight the illegal pay cut but I’d never be able to trust that employer again.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      This is exactly why I left my previous company and turned down the blank check they offered me when I put in my notice. I couldn’t risk losing out on a new opportunity (which turns out to be super awesome but I didn’t know that then) for them to turn around and cut my salary again a month later.

      Yeah, LW, I’m glad you survived the craziness thus far but I’d still be papering the town with resumes.

    2. BRR*

      Yeah, there’s no way I’d trust the employer and would have no motivation after this. I feel like I’m a tiny more sympathetic than other readers that the employer is going through a hardship, but they could have done this while still assigning some value to the employees.

  8. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Is this a good (normal, positive, useful) way to do layoffs??? I’ve never heard of anything like this before and I can’t even wrap my head around it.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Not that I’ve ever seen!

      When I was laid off, I did get a list of open positions I was welcome to apply for – not slated into, and I would’ve been starting over in terms of seniority, benefits, etc. But that was the only similarity to this. (That also wasn’t a full reorg, just outsourcing the work from the team I was on.)

    2. LW*

      LW here – No. No it’s absolutely not! None of us are happy about it and the way things have been handled. We’re simply trying to figure out our own personal next steps and keep a paycheck coming in. But, believe me when I say many of us have become a lot more vocal.

  9. What's in a name?*

    I’m curious if OP would qualify for unemployment if they hadn’t gotten the new job.

    I wouldn’t consider applying for a different job inside the company to be considered quiting.

    1. Sam.*

      But most companies don’t expect you to step down from your original position before applying to a different one within the company, either. That’s essentially what they were requiring – I would be really surprised if the company didn’t consider that to be a resignation, making her ineligible for unemployment.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is the part that I couldn’t wrap my head around, but you read it the same way I did I think.

        Apply for new = resign old and hope beyond hope you get the new?

      2. Junger*

        Then again, it’s the company that demanded their resignation in the first place. IANAL but that sounds like they could make a pretty good case to the unemployment agency.

        The company would definitely fight it though, so it’s not something i’d want to risk either way.

  10. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    Since they haven’t yet told you what your new pay rate will be, you may STILL be shorted further when they finally get around to announcing them if they make new pay retroactive as well. I understand your hesitation to bring it up directly with them, but someone, or a lot of someones, should alert the DOL. I also wonder, if you had been slated for a new role, decided to apply to another instead and DIDN’T get it, and then lost out on your slated role, would they have concluded you quit or were laid off? That might make a big difference on any UI claim.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Another thought…when all this shakes out, I hope that your new rate of pay is not actually lower than what you would have received from unemployment had you been in that first round of layoffs. I think you’re in a pot of slowly warming water and you haven’t realized it’s going to boil.

  11. Emma*

    Are all nonprofits like this? I have a couple friends who worked for different nonprofits and they all said “Never. Again.”

    And we see a lot of letters here from people working at nonprofits in terrible conditions. I wonder if there’s something to it.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Maybe an Ask The Readers for positive non-profit stories would be beneficial.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Remember, we only hear about the problem places. Employees at functional work places do not write to Alison.

      1. Junger*

        And most for-profit employees don’t mention that like non-profit employees do. For-profit is assumed by default, which can render the assumption somewhat invisible.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          This. If I posted about the company that seemed to have decided that they would lay off ten percent of the staff about once a year, I wouldn’t specify “I used to work for a for-profit educational publisher,” because “for-profit” isn’t the main point.

  12. Blagosphere*

    Huh. So my last org went through a restructure that was similar to what was described here but without the layoffs – and I kind of thought this process was normal but maybe it was not based on all the comments? On a Friday, the org posted about a dozen new jobs and everyone had until the following Wednesday to throw their hat in the ring. If there wasn’t a job that you wanted to apply for, the org said no one else would be getting promoted and no new positions would be added for the next year. So there was a ton of competition and chaos for like a month, and then the new hires were announced and people who were unhappy left, and everything kind of settled into a new normal. Curious if that sounds terrible to others and what experiences people have had that have been better in situations where there was a big restructure of the company.

    1. juliebulie*

      It sounds terrible. Like Hunger Games. People competing against their coworkers – who should normally be teammates, not competitors – for their very livelihoods. Way to foment resentment among the worker bees.

      If management knows what jobs are available and knows who their people are, filling those positions should not be such mayhem. (For a whole month? I’ve not worked in many places that could afford a month of chaos.) Not to mention the hit to morale.

      And the long-term outcome is that the best employees will get better jobs somewhere else, and the company is left with those who chose to stay, as well as those who couldn’t get hired somewhere else.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      IMO your situation was much better than the OPs company. If there weren’t any layoffs, no one was competing against their coworkers to keep their current job, they were competing for new jobs that would presumably be the only way for a promotion in the next year. A lot of companies simply announce a hiring/promotion freeze and any positions that do become vacant don’t get filled, creating holes and year-long chaos. At least your company looked ahead and what they would need in the next year and front-loaded the hiring instead of spacing it out. The people who applied would have had to apply if the job had been listed 6 months later, right? At least that’s what it sounds like.

  13. Beto*

    It’s a shame this worker decided to stay with such a terrible after all of that bs. I can’t wait for capitalism to end.

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

    A restructuring around a National Holiday? Who do they think they are, IBM?
    (No, seriously, when I worked there they had layoffs near the end of every quarter, and December was not an exception)

  15. Ominous Adversary*

    OP, your company stole two days’ worth of pay for your work from you. If you’d taken that same amount of money from your company’s till, they wouldn’t be shrugging and saying that it was not worth it to try and do anything about it. You’d probably be facing criminal charges. And now they’re making everybody play musical chairs for jobs?

    Your employer is not doing you a great favor by letting you have a job. They need you to do that work! This is a transaction where you exchange labor for pay – it’s not something you should be “grateful” they offer you at whatever price they deem fit.

    1. LW*

      LW here – just to be clear, I am NOT grateful for the way they handled things or even where it landed. I’m grateful to have a job that is still paying my bills for the time being.

    2. Cj*

      It doesn’t sound like they stole two whole days pay. They stole the difference between the old pay and the new pay. Which still sucks, and is wrong, but they didn’t work two days for free.

      1. LW*

        CJ, correct. What they didn’t pay was the 20% different between the two pays for two days. Not as bad as just outright not paying for two days of work, but illegal nonetheless.

  16. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

    Literally the only upside to this is that they at least warned you about mass layoffs, I guess? My company just up and decided one day that they were going to cut a ton of pharmacists (during a pandemic at the point when we were one of the only businesses in many states allowed to be open and therefore slammed) and did it within the hour.

    And now we have warning about a mass layoff coming that’s going to hit the entire company. But corporate didn’t tell our store managers; we had to find out through the few corporate people who frequent [redacted internet forum] and warned us on there. Which I’m choosing to trust because in the two years I’ve worked with this company every single thing they’ve warned us about has come to pass.

    Cutting pharmacy during a pandemic when we’re the ones giving all the vaccines (which we’re already doing way more of than at this time last year) and also handling a ridiculously increased volume of store traffic and medications. Brilliant.

    1. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

      To the OP, though, this organization sounds bananas. I agree with the people telling you to look elsewhere.

    2. CircleBack*

      There are some *really* sketchy work conditions and corporate policies going on in the pharmacy world, even before covid hit, yet it seems to be invisible to everyone outside of the industry. The cynic in me thinks that the recent and upcoming layoffs will pave the way for hiring a new round of cheaper techs and new pharmacy grads, though, as opposed to LW’s situation which is “sinking ship.”

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I hate being a pessimist, but I won’t be surprised if we get another update from OP before the end of the year about how the org closed up shop randomly one day.

      1. LW*

        LW here, I do have another update already – but not to that extent. Will add below when I get a chance haha. And bluephone, I bring the party hahaha

  17. Hills to Die on*

    What sounds most questionable to me is waiting to determine pay rates “once they find out who landed in which role”. Isn’t this rife for some sort of discrimination? I get that the pay rate may not be locked in and need to be adjusted based on who landed that role but there should be set scale at least for that position. If you are just waiting to hand out new pay rates based on who got the role does that mean that Becky is going to be paid different than Fergus, what about people of color? I don’t get how that is fair.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My guess is it’s going to be based on the rate of pay that person received in their previous position.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        So, perpetuating existing inequalities rather than creating them from scratch. That’s… not actually any better.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. “Llama Wrangler II pays the same as Teapot Painter I because that’s what Jane did before we promoted her to Llama Wrangler II.”

    2. LW*

      LW here, I apologize for it not being clear. Each of the new roles (can’t speak for the slated roles) were graded prior to people applying. Meaning there is a range for that position. The amount the person in that role gets for that role was not determined when people were told they got a role. I’m going to post an update below that details what they ended up doing. Stay tuned!

      1. Jessica Fletcher*

        It’s pretty bizarre to hire people without telling them what the salary would be. I think your employer was never going to hire or even interview outside the company for the new roles. Who would accept a job without knowing the salary, except a person from within the dysfunctional workplace/just eliminated from the dysfunctional workplace, who knew they’d be unemployed if they didn’t blindly accept whatever pittance your employer gave them?

        1. LW*

          There are some roles I think They did/do intend on firing from outside. There are still a few “top heavy” positions left open that people internally did apply for and no one was chosen. 1. Most of those positions are clearly unnecessary (imo) because we’re functioning fine without them currently. 2. I’d love to know the pay range for those positions. I wonder if they are more fairly scaled or if they are still open because they are low-balling them as well.

          From my perspective, if you can’t afford to hire at full rate now, DON’T HIRE. If times are that hard, and we’re managing, take the money from those salaries and give it to the do-ers actually doing the work to compensate them more fairly.

  18. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’m glad you’re still employed but all of this sounds super shady. If a company is going to reorg, they need to lay out all aspects of said plan, including the pay rates. I would highly recommend polishing your resume and looking for a new job because it sounds like you’re eventually going to get screwed over.

  19. WellRed*

    I just forced myself to go back and really read through this muddle after seeing other comments. OP, you accepted a job not knowing the payrate? I am unclear on whether this a demotion or promotion (you kind of say both?) but holy crap. Why would you do that, especially after the ripoff in April? Don’t even get me started on the issues with “know that they know who is in the roles they will decide what to pay them”

    1. LW*

      LW here, I was told the position’s pay grade (the scale). What I, or anyone, was NOT told, was what their actual pay rate would be (but we’d never hire someone off the street without telling them what their pay would be – so it’s really crappy they did it to us internal candidates). Why did I do it? I need a job. It’s just me and I have bills to pay. So it gives me a job until either the tides turn or I find something different.
      As for the confusion of the promotion or not (believe me, it gives me a headache too). Basically an example of the situation is: old position was graded a 6 with a coordinator title. The new position is graded a 5 but with a manager title (don’t even bother questioning this or commenting on the absurdity here – I’m with you!). The pay grade of 6 is $50,000 – $70,000. The pay grade of a 5 is $40,000 – $60,0000. So, while the pay grade of 5 is lower than a 6, there is overlap in the range, so if I was making lower range of the 6, but got higher range of the 5, I could theoretically make more at a lower pay grade. (spoiler alert – that’s NOT what happened – see my update to my update below once I can get it posted)

  20. WFH with Cat*

    Wait, you received a WARN act notice for the second round of layoffs but not the first? As I understand it, the WARN act requires employers of a certain size to provide 60 days notice for layoffs, so I am wondering if everyone who was laid off in that initial round should have received 60 days notice or severance (pay in lieu of notice)?

    There are a lot, lot, lot of rules to the WARN act, so notice might not have been required, but still …

    OP, I think you need to do as others have encouraged and find your next job sooner rather than later. This whole situation sounds like a hot mess.

    1. AnonInTheCity*

      My understanding (as someone who was laid of in March) is that it’s 60 days IF a reasonable human being could have anticipated layoffs 60 days in advance. I bet very few COVID layoffs fall into that category.

    2. LW*

      LW here, As AnonInTheCity stated, there was not reasonable time to anticipate the initial layoffs. There WAS for the 2nd round, so that’s how they avoided it the first time.
      BRR – we definitely hit the numerical threshold each time.

      1. WFH with Cat*

        Thanks LW for the follow up … and to AnonInTheCity and BRR for pegging two of those lots, lots, lots of rules that apply to WARN layoffs.

  21. Uh oh*

    I can’t be the only one wondering about how the legalities of determining pay later are all going to shake out, right? With systemic issues brought again to the forefront this year, an minority should be questioning how their identity is being factored into pay structure.

  22. Wicked Stitcher*

    I can’t help but feel like making the layoffs as confusing as possible would be a really great way to hide hinky decisions. Especially considering we already know they’re willing to break the law in the name of saving money.

    I hope you’re job hunting, OP. Be grateful for the chance to do it while still making some money, but not so grateful you overlook this atrocity. They’ve already broken the law at your expense once, they will do it again.

  23. Bookworm*

    Thanks for the update, OP! As others say: it does sound quite messy but I’m glad you’re still employed. Good luck!

  24. Daisy*

    LW, please please please start looking around for a new job. You may be fortunate and have here the most fantastic career ever in this NP, learn a ton and become The Boss. However, it may not happen, and there could be another round of layoff, and the story could repeat, or you are left without a job, or with a job but a meagre pay.
    This doesn’t have to be aggressive or super time consuming, you are entitled to be choosy and look just for the perfect opportunities, but if worst comes to worst, you would be so grateful that you are already in the game. Your company doesn’t seem to be too focused on making the transition out very easy, so a lot of caution is warranted.
    Alison has been suggesting this in the past for writes in companies with similar financial instability, and I have always appreciated her foresight on this.

  25. LW*

    Hi all, Letter Writer here with an update to the update! It’s kind of long, so bear with me…

    About a month after moving into our “new” positions, they finally gave us our “new” pay. Before I give those details, I’ll relay that originally we were told that they’d look at the pay for the positions the next week. Obviously that didn’t happen. It took a coworker of mine, quite literally, breaking down to HR for them to make it a priority. I’ve tried really hard this entire time to be objective and stick only to the facts of what I know (and believe me, I have a LOT of speculations), but I’m pretty sure they were holding out because they wanted to keep people at their reduced Covid pays as long as possible to bank money. And, again being objective, I get it. We’re hurting financially and hard decisions have to be made.

    So – the decision on pay was to ignore new positions. All of our “new” pay is based 100% on our old rates. They chose a threshold – if you made UNDER that amount pre-Covid, you were restored back to 100% of your previous pay. If you made OVER that amount pre-Covid, you got 10% of your reduction back (from my understanding, regardless of how much of a cut you took – so if you took a 25% pay cut, you still only got 10% back).

    Now, I was told that if you were in a new position that was a higher than your previous – as I was (even though the pay grade is technically lower, the title is higher) then you got a standard additional amount back. I was told that was the same for everyone – though after speaking to some others, I have my doubts. Meaning you could have gone from a coordinator to a manager or from a manager to a VP (skipping a few levels) and still got the same additional amount. (I’ll also caveat this by saying I was told if you were placed in a downgraded roll, your pay was reflective of that, and not based on your pre-Covid rate). So, I received 10% of my old pay plus the additional amount which (shocker) did not even bring me back up to my pre-Covid rate. So now, I’m in a higher role, making less money. Believe me when I say I have all the same feels as I’m sure each of you reading this have. And the are very “2020” feels. We have (at least – sarcasm here) been told once things start to rebound they will relook at SOME salaries again.

    Now, the other side of the coin is the person hired into my old role was 8 months pregnant, which meant she was going out on maternity leave before I could even train her. I was told they’d hire maternity coverage and then that was snatched away – leaving me to cover BOTH roles until she returned. So I had a conversation up my chain of command and expressed my frustrations: Why wasn’t the new pay based on the new roles – even if it meant “hey, here’s your new salary, but because of Covid, we still need you to take a X% pay cut until we can fully restore.”, jobs are starting to open back up and people will leave – key people, and there’s no way the company will be able to rehire a quality employee at that new rate, etc. I also said that I felt it was only fair, if they weren’t going to get maternity coverage for my old position that I be compensated for the additional work. Especially since others still having to backfill work were being compensated for it. I came prepared with costs for hiring someone for coverage vs paying me to do it, as well as why the internal solution that had been proposed (someone in another role, not me) wouldn’t work for numerous reasons.

    And, I’m happy (I’m taking the small wins where I can get them!) to say that they finally approved getting maternity coverage. And, the person we’re bringing in requires me to do zero training (I’ll give you one guess why that is). So, while it doesn’t give me any more money back, it at least takes my old role off of me. Which brings me to the end of my update. I hear you all about looking for a new job – believe me, my resume is POLISHED! However, this new role and title is experience I’m looking forward to getting and I’d like to be able to at least get a year of it on my resume before looking. Also, there seems to be a shake up of key people in the company leaving – people whom I feel need to go if we’re going to survive. So, my intentions as of now, are not to jump ship just yet, build up that experience, see where everything shakes out and then when the market turns more, if things are still just as bad, throw up the deuces then.

    1. DapperDev*

      Sounds like you’re aiming to maximize your long-term salary/responsibilities for your next job. If I were you, I’d save as much money as possible in case you get laid off. Given how they’ve handled things until now, I wouldn’t trust them one bit. At least having a financial cushion can alleviate the stress, since you’d have a back-up plan if you did get laid off later on.

    2. Daisy*

      Amazing update, I’m so glad it is working well for you (well given the circumstances of course). Wish you all the best!
      (… but keep an eye on the job bulletin, it cannot hurt :D)

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s so easy for everyone to scream that you need a new job right now and no-shht your company are crooks, who are breaking the labor laws with retroactive paycuts. But I don’t know why people are so shocked and riding you for making the best of the shitshow you are dealing with.

      I’m glad that you can get some experience in another role. I’m relieved you’re making 20% or 10% or whatever percentage less and still able to pay your bills. Unemployment pays you if you’re lucky 65% of your wages and you have a time limit on that, oh and the feds suck and the extra unemployment still hasn’t been restored, it keeps getting chopped up and spit back out and re-debated, while people are losing their savings and eventually their homes, despite evictions also being illegal in many places, people are still being booted out into streets. Companies are all breaking laws and nobody will ever hold them accountable because if they go bankrupt, well you can’t bleed a turnip after all!

      So I’m glad that you’re making lemonade right now. I hope that you get out at some point but you’re doing good, you’re staying as positive as you can in the circumstances and digging the positives out of the negatives you’re swimming in. God speed, friend!

    4. Firecat*

      Please start applying now for the role you have at other companies. It will be much better for you to get this experience elsewhere.

      I should know – I’m essentially you 3 years from now and I regret staying at the company for as long as I did.

      Here’s why applying now is your best move:
      1. It’s a great excuse to leave quickly. No one will bat an eye when you say you are leaving for financial stability.
      2. Your company is warping your perspective. For example when you said you “get” why they aren’t paying anyone fairly or legally. There is nothing to “get” about it. Your company are lying thiefs and that isn’t going to change. Believe me when I say many other companies are not doing this to their employees despite financial struggles.
      3. You won’t gain the skills you want. I say this after staying in a role 3 years because I wanted it on my resume, then my company pulled a lot of the same stunts as yours (made me work both full time roles, underpaid me because I came from a junior role, cut our pay and time off, etc.) Overall I learned some good hard skills … but that was very much counteracted by my skewed soft skills and the professional damage to my reputation in our business.
      4. Your incompentant company will most likely stain you. Lying thiefs tend to be lying thiefs everywhere. So if you are working with vendors, no matter how honest and kind you are your bosses can torpedo your good name in one email. I can’t tell you the number of vendors I worked hard to please, even get discounts from, just to have one of the bosses throw a tantrum and spoil the relationship.
      5. You may not be able to build references. I had to eliminate 2 of my references, because wouldn’t you know liars lie. I essentially have no reference from the role I took and stayed at the company for.

      The worst case scenario is you look for a while and don’t land anything while keeping your head down at your crazy company. Best case scenario you land a better job at an honest company. It’s way better to look now while you are employed then risking getting laid off in a sketchy move like your company has pulled twice.

      Please, please, please apply for other jobs!

      1. lulu*

        All of this. Please apply to other jobs today. You are not going to get one year worth of experience that will be valuable under those circumstances. It is very likely that there will be further lay offs within one year, if the company doesn’t fold entirely. You are lucky to have a paycheck while you’re looking, please don’t waste it by staying put.

        1. Des*

          Exactly. The non-toxic aspects of the new job title you can already put on your resume now. Your story can be “yep I just got promoted but I’m looking for more stability”. This will give your future employer a feeling that you’re a valued person (because recent promotion) and that you can fit into the role you’re looking for (because you’ve been using those skills while job searching, which will likely take a little bit of time at least), and you don’t risk ending up unemployed, depressed and with your sense of what normal companies are looking for wrapped by this experience.

      2. Des*


        I don’t think LW realizes just how damaging this experience will be for them emotionally.
        After reading this update I change my suggestion from “pad resume and leave” to “leave!!!” because I can see the wrapped sense of involvement with this awful company (there’s nothing to understand other than they’re awful!). I know it feels like “if you can just stick it out it’ll be worth it” but seriously look at how much you are overidentifying with these people, LW.

    5. Gigi*

      Are… are you sure you will still be there in a year? How can you be sure you won’t fired or laid off? I mean, it is not even sure the company will survive…

    6. Bandaner*

      I’m sorry, but you still sound so naive – the odds of your role and the company itself existing in a year are vanishingly low.

      Imagine if you were a deckhand on the Titanic, and while the ship was rapidly filling with water, the captain came along and announced “Good news – you’re being promoted! You’re the captain now!” and hopped into a lifeboat. Would you say “Well, sure, there are some issues here, but I got this great new title – better stay for a year or so to really get the most out of it!” or would you get the heck off that boat?

      Please, please don’t wait to use that ultra-polished resume. The other comments are right – staying under this title doesn’t provide enough advantages to balance out warping your professional norms and possibly damaging your reputation.

  26. t*

    I’m not as shocked as some others about the 40 jobs they posted. I feel like by slating people into roles when there’s a major restructure is not allowing those people to have any say in their job.

    I might be biased because I was once the victim of a surprise restructure. I walked into work, there was an emergency meeting and all of a sudden my team was spread to the wind and we all had different jobs and bosses. It actually ended up working out in my favor in the long run, but I would have at least liked the opportunity to give some input into my new role before it was foisted upon me.

  27. Des*

    My goodness, the fact that people are grateful to still be working for this company is sad. I hope the OP can pad their resume with the new skills and find a better place to land eventually.

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