I work for the state. Another state called me and made me a formal job offer for the amount listed on the job posting to which I responded to be interviewed in the first place. I started work this past Monday, and on Thursday, four days later, all of the new hires in the county met with the county HR. At this meeting I was given a stack of papers "for my records" and I noted the salary was several thousand dollars LESS than what I was told in what they called the "Formal Job Offer" made on the phone, which I accepted. After a series of "talk to this person, talk to that person", it was explained to me that someone in a different part of the state determined salaries and that they determined I was a "work against" ( a term I had never heard) where they take someone from a lesser position and have them do this more upper level position at their current lower salary until they learn the higher position and earn the higher pay. This job required a BS degree and three years of experience. I have a Masters degree and eight years of experience. When I discussed this issue with the woman who made me the formal offer on the phone, she asked me "Why did you think you were making < the amount of salary listed on the job listing>?" I replied because that is what you stated when you called me and said, "I would like to make you a formal job offer at XXXxxx amount, is this amount ok with you?" at which time I replied yes, and accepted and started working less than a week later. She replied, "Oh, well, I was just reading from a script." (head scratch) Unfortunately, I had the same job opportunity in a very large city an hour away from here at fifteen grand more a year---but I refused it to take this position closer to my home.

No one ever mentioned the term "work against". The only thing worse than being hired and finding out you are being paid less and doing a lesser position is finding out you are being hired and doing the higher more difficult job with more education and experience required but being PAID at the lower position. I would not have left the state job I already had if I had known the pay was going to be this much less.

Perhaps it was a miscommunication between the nameless faceless entity who decides salaries in another part of the state, but I when detrimental reliance occurs on the supervisor who interviewed me, who calls me and says "Formal Job Offer at XXX" and I say "Yes, I will take the job at that rate", then they need to pay me, I feel.

I don't want to make enemies, but someone screwed up along the way, such is small town government. I simply want to be paid what I was promised, which is a fair rate for my skills, my education and my abilities.

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    If it was really formal, it would be in writing.
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 7, 2020 at 16:45
  • Clearly, they don't have to honor whatever they told you, as they did the opposite. If you cannot figure it out by talking, you will need to consider if it's worth lawyering up or letting it go.
    – Aida Paul
    Mar 7, 2020 at 17:05
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    Can you still pursue the other opportunity? Mar 7, 2020 at 20:14
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    @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevilso is a verbal contract especially after confirmation that it was "on the script" Mar 7, 2020 at 23:02
  • Forgive me---I am new to this form and am still figuring out how to navigate and reply to the comments--I am grateful for everyone's time and effort in assisting me---thanks so much. I have worked for various state agencies for almost ten years and have never been given an "offer" in writing before actually reporting to work. It has always been verbal, over the phone. Once I arrive at the job, I am then given something to sign with the salary and other related info on it. This time, I am in a neighboring state and did not have cause to suspect anything was amiss. Mar 8, 2020 at 2:42

3 Answers 3


OP, you have a few choices in your spot:

  1. Keep trying to negotiate yourself for more money. This is unlikely to succeed given your current rather lack of progress, and as you already work there your position is slightly on the worse side.
  2. Lawyer up. Whether that will work or not we don't know, as the phonecall may or may not have created a binding contract, it depends on many details (for example if you got the phone call on Monday evening, accepted the offer on phone, and started working on Tuesday morning then your case for higher salary would be very strong. So it really depends on details). Keep in mind that even if you will be successful in that, lawyering up against the boss is not exactly the best way to start a working relationship and may bite you in the backside. It's wrong, but that's reality, it may be a minor bite, or a major one if someone decides to hold a grudge.
  3. Accept your fate, for now, and start job hunting again. Ultimately the best way for an employee to handle an unsatisfactory salary is to join another company which will pay them more.

But before doing anything (maybe besides job hunting quietly) make sure that you can realistically come on top. While I can relate to the bad taste of being paid less than you hoped, would the current salary satisfy you without the history? If so, maybe the best thing to do is to just move on, even though it may be hard to do.


Verbal (and over-the-phone) contracts are worth the paper they are printed on

The company should have sent you a final employment contract, even if your employment is at-will (which it likely is). Begin job searching immediately. This employer has shown they cannot keep promises, that is not the kind of place you want to work.

This will likely be the first of many broken promises at your new job.

Call the other job back and see if that position is filled. You might get lucky.

EDIT: From phrases like 'another state' I'm guessing you're in the U.S. I'm also assuming you are not in a union, as you probably would have gone to the union rep about this. Adding these details means we can give you more specific advice.

EDIT 2: You can contact a lawyer if you want (I'm not one). I doubt you recorded your conversation about salary, so I'd imagine the case would go "he said X, the state has in writing X-Y". Pretty sure the state has done this before, and they'll know how to drag it out. Your best bet is always to look for a new job first - look at legal options 2nd (or 9th).


Have no idea what the law says in whatever location you are in, however, generally speaking what appears in offers is meaningless. It's all about what is agreed upon. So that's how you should frame the conversation.

Verbal contracts can be binding. Having said that, it would come down to what can be proven in court. In some places, employment requires written contracts. That is not the case for many states.

Ultimately, they don't need to justify to you, or anyone else, why they think you shouldn't get what was agreed. it really doesn't matter. What does matter is that you are getting paid less than what was agreed.

If I was you, I'd try to make as much correspondence as you can by writing. If you can get in writing from them, admitting that the agreement was to pay X, but will only pay you Y, then that's something a lawyer would have a field day with. If you can get written correspondence detailing that from the person that made the offer to you, that would be excellent.

Then you can consider approaching organisations that specialise in helping employees with such issues.

At the end of the day, you will be rocking the boat. If you're in an at-will state, you'll have to weigh up if it's worth the risk. If you are worth more, you should certainly consider looking at alternative employment.

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    "Verbal contracts can be binding." they ARE binding, with very few exceptions. The problem is whether a chat over the phone like that forms a contact, and that's debatable. Which is also why OP needs a lawyer, not internet forums. If you can skip the supposed "legal bits", the rest of the advice is solid.
    – Aida Paul
    Mar 7, 2020 at 17:08
  • @TymoteuszPaul I don't presume to know enough about the law worldwide to be able to make that claim But it's nice that you are so sure. Mar 7, 2020 at 17:14
  • If you are not so sure, it's best to not try to provide "legal advice" or whatever it is supposed to be.
    – Aida Paul
    Mar 7, 2020 at 17:15
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    @TymoteuszPaul I didn't provide legal advice. I made no claim that in this particular instance the contract is binding, or not binding. I said it may be binding. If anything, you are suggesting it is binding. Maybe you should refrain from giving legal advice :) Mar 7, 2020 at 17:17
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    @TymoteuszPaul If you generally don't like my answers, maybe you could just start at the "moving on" phase, and then you could save us all some time. Cheerio! Mar 7, 2020 at 17:20

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