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Today I signed an offer letter with a big company in the US that I was very excited to work for.

Less than two hours after signing the offer, and after I withdrew my application to the other company that had expressed interest in hiring me, the company's internal recruiter, with whom I've been communicating for many weeks, emailed me this:

I'm not sure if we discussed this but I need to let you know that for the first two weeks, you will have a 10% cut in pay.

The recruiter further explained that it's because of temporary pay cuts across the whole company due to COVID-19, which happen to expire 2 weeks into my employment there.

While I have no objection to temporary pay cuts due to COVID-19--and actually think it's a really good way of preventing layoffs--I have a strong objection to their failure to disclose this until after I sign the offer letter. If the recruiter had brought it up earlier, I would have readily accepted the pay cut.

The recruiter's claim to be "not sure if we discussed this" is not credible to me. We certainly did not discuss this. Even if the recruiter was not trying to conceal the pay cut and just forgot to mention it before, the recruiter seems to be dishonest about their mistake now.

Should I raise any objection to the way they handled this? If so, how?

It's not about the money for me, and I don't really care if I have to take the pay cut. I want to make it known that their failure to disclose isn't OK. But, I don't want to get started on the wrong foot at this company or risk losing the offer because I complained.

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    Do we know whether it was the recruiter, or the employer who was responsible for the omission? (There wouldn't be any point in blaming the employer if they had told the recruiter in good faith and expected them to mention it in good time.) – gidds Jul 2 at 14:41
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    If it does get extended, but two weeks in advance they didn't know it was going to be extended, then the business is probably poorly run. I know there is a lot of uncertainty right now, but they have 3-4 months of experience and data to draw on, so they should be able to predict if they are going to be able to start paying full salaries again in two weeks. – stannius Jul 2 at 19:07
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    @gidds It should be included in the offer letter, even if they told the recruiter and are expecting them to mention it. That's kind of what an offer letter is for: "Hey, you know how we've been doing oral negotiations for a while? Here's a written description of what we've agreed to." – Acccumulation Jul 2 at 19:14

16 Answers 16

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It seems to me that you recognise the risk of rocking the boat. Do be aware, though, that the signals of saying nothing are not entirely benign.

For example, if you kick up a fuss and you may seem like a troublemaker. If you say nothing then you may seem like a pushover, and find it harder to, say, push for promotion further down the line. Whatever impression you make, it will follow you for your time at the company.

Perhaps you can walk the middle by expressing your disappointment at the unprofessional treatment, but agreeing at the same time to tough it in the trenches a little as your new colleagues are doing.

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    I agree with this answer. Personally, I'd probably write a reply along the lines of "Hello <Recruiter>, it was not mentioned before and I'm not happy about the surprise and I sincerely hope it's the only surprise, but, because these are difficult times for all of us, I agree to the pay cut for those two weeks, under the condition that the agreed upon pay is restored afterwards." – Morfildur Jul 2 at 7:59
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    It doesn't deserve to be an answer in itself but OP should check/asks himself if the recruiter is one of the people he's going to work with. If yes, then indeed one might not want to work with a dishonest person. If he's in another service and you won't ever see him again, it might not be worth it to spoil a good opportunity. – Echox Jul 2 at 16:12
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    @Echox I wouldn't call it dishonest. Unless you can prove he willfully neglected to mention the cut before signing the proposal, it is best to assume it was just an honest mistake, something we are all capable of and we all should tolerate. If it happens other times, i would start to worry (and maybe take dust off my CV) – bracco23 Jul 3 at 8:16
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    The OP definitely needs to flag their negative view and the poor impression this makes on them. At best this is an "unfortunate accident", but at worst it's a "bait and switch". Only the OP can decide which but flagging that this is something they are are very annoyed with and expect no more foul ups with is what is needed. Do this by email - not verbally - make sure there is a paper trail in case the problem gets worse. – StephenG Jul 3 at 9:41
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    I'd ask for a revised agreement to reflect the new numbers. One, it signals to both recruiter and manager that yes, you do pay attention. Two, it preserves the hiring agreement - if you let them change terms, there's no guarantee that in two weeks the story won't become "oh, you agreed to that salary". – Allen Gould Jul 3 at 16:51
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Just tell them that you will start two weeks later.

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    This is what I would do (assuming I could afford the two weeks without pay). Then you aren't working at a reduced pay and so aren't showing yourself to be a sucker (to those who would interpret it that way). Given the non-zero chance of the pay cut getting extended, I would use the time to continue job searching, including going back to the companies where I had withdrawn and telling them honestly "due to finances the company that gave me an offer may not be able to bring me on after all, though I won't know for a couple weeks." – stannius Jul 2 at 19:38
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    Following the answer of @Alexan, I would suggest the following email: "I'm not sure if we discussed this but I need to let you know that for the first two weeks, I am not going to work." – KratosMath Jul 3 at 6:46
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    Brilliant answer ! I'd go with "No we didn't discuss this, to keep things I will start after the pay cut has ended. Thanks for understanding" The delay is then the fault of the recruiter for not disclosing pay terms. If company are not happy its a clear red flag. – PeterH Jul 3 at 10:32
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    Or ask for a signing bonus equal to the missed salary. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 3 at 14:36
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    I love the simplicity and polite assertiveness of this answer (diplomatically phrased in an email). But it would be wise to get in writing the specific start date as directly pegged to the agreed salary in case they extend the pay cut period. – Stacker Lee Jul 3 at 15:59
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Actually, I just re-read the question.

A 10% pay cut for the first two weeks. It's not as bad as I originally thought. My original answer was based on a much longer-lasting pay cut.

Honestly, I don't think this is a battle worth fighting, especially if everyone partook in the same pay cut.

I just find it suspicious that the pay cut is expiring, but that the pandemic hasn't ended yet. Has the financial position of the company/organization improved since the pay cut has been implemented? Did they get a PPP loan? https://www.pppspy.com/ Also, why are they hiring new people now?

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    Lockdowns are tending to end now that the peak of the pandemic has been suppressed in many countries. I don’t know what industry / department the OP is in, but not all were impacted equally. There are companies who have furloughed some departments and not others. – Tim Jul 2 at 8:18
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    2 weeks pass -- Company "We are extending the pay cuts until the end of the year" – hellyale Jul 2 at 14:40
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    @hellyale this is what i would be concerned about -- the op appears to be in the US, where cases are skyrocketing with no end in sight. If not another shutdown, it seems extremely likely there will be severe restrictions put back into place as hospital beds become increasingly filled. – eps Jul 2 at 15:27
  • @eps it’s much worse, the press is only talking about states whose historic highs are right now, like TX FL GA CA. States which had spectacular peaks in April, like NY NJ MI and then had good recoveries, are not being discussed. Even though their late June numbers are 2-3x their early June (good) numbers. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 2 at 17:58
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    @Polygnome, I suppose it's not the date that worries me, but the fact that this was not mentioned beforehand. Had this been mentioned beforehand, then the OP would have been more cautious and would have asked more probing questions about the financial stability of the company. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 3 at 0:16
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To me, it sounds like the recruiter missed the fact that your starting date was within the period of the pay cut due to Corona. This certainly qualifies as special circumstances, so I think it's at least possible this was an honest mistake.

Now what do you hope to achieve by complaining at this point? If you're not looking for the money, what is the outcome you're going for? If that is of concern, I'd suggest editing your question to make it about that, asking for a signing bonus or similar. But you say it's "not about the money for me" - then what is it about?

It seems to me this has a lot of potential to backfire, and little prospect of doing anything good for anyone involved. If you're so happy with the offer, I'd say brush it off. Feel free to inform the recruiter that you can't recall it having been discussed but you're understanding of the need for such a measure, and leave it be.

Don't start your new job with bad blood on either side.

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  • I like your use of Hanlon's Razor, but the OP needs to have a discussion with the company and recruiter before going further with this position. They need to determine if it really was an honest mistake or something less benign. I've been screwed by enough employers to be very critical of a situation like this. And the OP may never really be sure of the exact nature of what's happeneing. – computercarguy Jul 2 at 17:05
  • @computercarguy I don’t see how either the employer or the recruiter would willingly participate in that conversation. Both have the incentive to lie like dogs. You could literally wiretap one of their phones, then talk to the other who would say “Let me get back to you” - and bing, they’d call the other person and work out how to coordinate their stories. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 2 at 18:01
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica, with talking with the company and the recruiter, the OP can get a sense of if it was an actual accident or if they admit if they were intentional with how they informed the OP of the salary reduction. If it's stated it was a mistake and the company will fix it, then only a small amount of "bad blood" and second guessing remains, but if the company admits it as SOP, then I'd say reject the offer letter as compromised by the company. Likely there's going to be a gray area, but at least he OP wouldn't be 100% guessing as to motive. – computercarguy Jul 2 at 18:07
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    I just can’t imagine a company ever admitting it is SOP. That seems completely contrary to a company’s self-interests. You’d have to smell the lie somehow. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 2 at 18:11
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I have had great success in signing negotiations so that's where my POV comes from. Let me get this straight... they made everybody take a 10% pay cut but they spent thousands and thousands of dollars looking for a good hire and they found you but now you're supposed to take a 10% cut that they never mentioned? You would basically be paying for some of your own recruitment. Do not accept this. Tell them that your signing was conditional on them keeping the terms of the agreement so by changing the terms they undid your signing. They need to make things right.

They're also playing good cop, bad cop with you. The hiring manager is the one making the decisions not the recruiter. The recruiter is playing the bad cop role, later on the manager would pretend not to have known what the recruiter was up to. Most likely they planned/were aware of the 10% from day 1 and deliberately kept you in the dark. But, don't accuse them of anything. Just say nope. If they really think you were a good pick they will make things right.

And re-consider your thinking that it's not about the money. If you have an attitude that it's not about the money then what happens in say 3-5 months when they come to you with a sob story about needing to cut your pay by 10 or even 20%? They won't tell you that it's only you and a few other people they think are soft that they're telling that to.

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    I'm not sure you spotted that this us a short term decrease. – DJClayworth Jul 2 at 3:04
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    @DJClayworth so what about the last paragraph with the 3 to 5 month scenario? – Solar Mike Jul 2 at 4:47
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    "Most likely they planned/were aware of the 10% from day 1 and deliberately kept you in the dark." - seems very unlikely that a "big company in the US" would go to such lengths just to earn 10% of a single employee's salary for 2 weeks. I doubt the money is at all significant to the company. It's more likely that it's simply the company's official policy to have a 10% cut during the pandemic and the recruiter had an "oops" moment when they realised the new employee hadn't been told. – Jon Bentley Jul 2 at 8:46
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    @JonBentley then the recruiter should pay for the 10% – Haukinger Jul 2 at 9:19
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    @Haukinger Well, contractually the company should pay the 10% to the employee (because that is what is written on the offer letter) and it could then seek damages from the recruiter – Jon Bentley Jul 2 at 11:47
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Don't complain about it. Just ask to be exempted from the pay cut, on the basis that your offer letter did not contain anything about it.

You've agreed to what legally amounts to a contract, and an undisclosed pay cut means the other side is not fulfilling the contract in its entirety.

Do not threaten to quit, and definitely don't silently quit. You don't want to launch nukes over what is most likely a failure in communication. Your resume (or possibly background checks) will get a pockmark if you actually do quit right after joining, potentially costing you more. The real leverage you have in this situation is that your manager knows you'll be unhappy with the company if they do nothing and leave this "bad blood". This is worth a lot more than it may seem to.

If it's a really big company, they might not have the ability to just exempt you from the cut. In that case negotiate for some other form of compensation. There is always something the hiring manager can do for you. Extra leave time, priority in picking when to use it, maybe priority in taking a course, anything else, it depends on how strict the company's policies are and what exactly you're interested in.

Don't make it about the money, make it about acknowledging the discrepancy in the terms offered and provided and recompensing you for it. More importantly, you don't seem happy with the situation, and this is about making you feel satisfied, which will have a meaningful effect on your job performance, worth more than this short-term cut.

Most managers at big companies know how it works and will try to help you the way they can. Your direct superiors are the ones most interested in your performance. The way to make things right is to be straight with them and ask for exemption, or for something else that you want, and try to accept any reasonably fair offer to clear the air.

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I have two pieces of advice.

  1. Don't assume the recruiter is being dishonest with you. You don't know this to be true. It sounds like it's start date dependent and it absolutely could be an honest mistake.
  2. Protect yourself. The biggest risk to you is that they could extend the paycuts for who knows how long. Two weeks is not a big deal as you should be thinking long term. But the possibility of an extended paycut is a big deal and you should seek assurances first.
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One thing that other answers haven't addressed is that many people are struggling due to working at home while having to potentially simultaneously home school their kids or provide child-care (or care for other family members that previously had care-workers or being under financial stress because their partner got laid off, etc, etc.).

It seems quite possible to me that the recruiter is personally overwhelmed and made an honest mistake.

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  • This is really good to remember. I appreciate this answer. Because their message was not apologetic at all, it's harder for me to feel forbearing towards them, and intentional or not their failure disclose is very problematic. But still I agree your point is an important consideration. – ASDFQWERTY Jul 3 at 16:07
  • Or, maybe the recruiter is just nervous, because they relapsed 2 months ago. Big win at the dogfights, cash money. Hotel. Called out for a boy and a bottle. Blacked out. Had cash, shoulda used it. Spouse saw the card charges, said Jesus forgives. Good to hear, because calls keep coming, asking about the boy... – chiggsy Jul 5 at 4:03
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    Neither scenario, changes anything here. The professional thing to do was to clearly inform the OP that they would be getting an involuntary haircut, put it right in the letter. In fact, covid-19 is infectious, so where is that 10% going? Towards face shields and protocols to avoid infection? Because the OP should be able to see where these funds are going. It's a whole conversation, that frankly, it's irresponsible not to have. Every place that expects you to share space with others should have a strategy. – chiggsy Jul 5 at 4:29
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    Finally, the problem with handing out the "benefit of the doubt" tickets so freely is that this is something that business does all the time. They owe you 3k for work done, they give you 1700, and force you to litigate for the rest. If you do, they pay, if not, they save. You had other offers, get them back in play. The financial effects of the quarantine mean full sketch in effect. Add more water to the soda. More bread in the sausage. Slurp more data form the website, notice how many TOS changed over the last 3 months? Regular paychecks, safe working environment. No shenanigans. – chiggsy Jul 5 at 4:58
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For me it would be entirely expected that the sum you're discussing with the HR is your regular salary. A pay cut that applies to all employees is a very temporary measure (it's just for two weeks!), so I don't see why it should not apply to you.

Imagine that due to reduced workload, everyone on the team would get a PTO on Friday for the next two weeks. Would you expect this policy to also apply to you, or would you expect to work alone just because you're new?

Sure, it's a pity the HR forgot to mention this pay cut to you, but I don't think it's worth fighting against, unless this is just one of the number of reasons you have.

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    It's unclear if HR forgot to mention or intended to forget. – Bernhard Döbler Jul 2 at 11:16
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    @BernhardDöbler I think the presumption of innocence applies: unless there's proof, you can't claim it was intentional. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 2 at 11:58
  • @DmitryGrigoryev What innocence? Malice. Negligence. Indifference. It happened. It's not like you forget that you are not getting full wages. Not even day 1 yet, and not only were there shenanigans, the shenanigans were unapologetic. The company looks terrible here, and to someone who presumably they want badly enough to hire while they are cutting salaries. Someone should be angry that this "mistake" happened who works in management. You'd make sure to express remorse, for the optics alone, because of the politics! – chiggsy Jul 5 at 5:19
  • @chiggsy Negligence and indifference, yes. Malice and shenanigans, not really. I'm not saying it's a great thing to do, and they do look terrible doing this, but in the end it's not a big thing. If everything else about this job looks good, I wouldn't dwell on this. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 6 at 7:05
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Put yourself in the company’s shoes. What did they have to lose by disclosing the temporary pay cut in the offer letter? If they did and you were petty enough to turn it down for that reason, they’d have dodged a bullet.

It seems more likely this was an honest mistake that’s embarrassing to the company. Turning the offer down now is not a signal that you’re excessively petty, i.e., they could lose someone they don’t want to lose.

Rather than start off on an adversarial footing, you could take the opportunity to extend grace and show them how reasonable you are.

This is an unpleasant surprise and obviously I would have preferred to have discussed the matter before accepting the offer. However, if you had told me new hires are exempt from the pay cut, I would have insisted on waiving that exemption in solidarity with my new colleagues.

By turning the frame around so that it’s your decision to take the pay cut, you hardly look like a pushover. If anything they owe you one.

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With as long as the hiring process can take sometimes, and as many candidates as an employer often looks at, it's completely reasonable that the recruiter might have mentioned this to a few people but not others, or that he might not have even thought it was worth mentioning because the cut was about to expire anyway and he didn't think anyone would be hired before then.

A 10% cut for 2 weeks comes out to a loss of less than 0.4% of your first year's salary. If you're making $100K, (just to pull out a nice, round number to simplify the math,) you'd be losing around $380 before taxes. Frankly, that's not enough money to worry about. Chalk this one up to an honest mistake and enjoy your new job!

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    There's more than just money involved in this situation. With the recruiter not giving the full facts before the signing, it brings into play the honesty of the recruiter and possibly the company itself. Did the company tell the recruiter not to say anything until after the OP signed? We don't know and the OP likely won't either. Also, with Covid-19 continuing to be a problem, the 2 weeks could easily be extended another 3-5 months. And if the company was having financial issues, why is it still hiring? – computercarguy Jul 2 at 17:01
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    By that logic, why couldn't the company say "frankly, that's not enough money to worry about" and start their new employee off right by following their written agreement instead of starting this new relationship on such a bad note and risking losing their chosen candidate? It goes both ways: if the dollar amount is too small for the employee to worry about, it should also be too small for the company to not do the right thing. – Zach Lipton Jul 3 at 8:50
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It sounds like this is partly an innocent bureacratic error but also partly a slippery slope mind game in terms of honesty and respect. In other words, it can be seen as the company's first move at seeing what kind of dishonesty and disrespect you'll tolerate from them.

How about asking him to send you an updated offer letter to sign, which includes the COVID-related pay cut? To the extent that the error is innocent, this should be easy for him. I think you can say directly that you would be willing to accept the pay cut but it is important to you to have the relevant terms included in the offer letter. The message you want to send is that you're willing to cooperate but you require everything to be handled properly above the table.

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What worries me in this question is the implications of you not being told. You went into this position without the knowledge of how Covid had affected the job you were applying for. The pandemic hit a lot of fields hard, but I know facets of the software industry thriving from the changes it forced. Not knowing about this hardship impacted your decision on the healthiness of the company. You say they are a large company, so I can assume that 10% is probably temporary and they will probably reinstate everyone's salaries, but you didn't have the knowledge that that would be a worry under your belt.

In all honesty, I might reach out to the other company. A 10% pay cut for 2 weeks is nothing, that's not the issue here. It's not knowing how the company was dealing with the effects of this pandemic that is the issue.

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  • This is an excellent answer, and it points to something everyone should be doing when they seek a new position -- if the company is publicly traded, look at their financial performance. That's a bit difficult in the current environment, but otherwise good advice. – Julie in Austin Jul 4 at 13:19
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I would be cheerful, assume it's a mistake, and propose a solution:

Dear ABC

Thanks for your email of 1/2/3. The cut seems sensible in this climate, but given I hadn't been made aware of it in my offer letter, I propose I receive 90% salary for the first two weeks, but that I start my employment a day later. I hope that way the company saves the money it needs to, and our agreement is maintained.

Kind regards

ASDFQWERTY

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The recruiter could as well not say anything and let you to learn about the pay cut AFTER signing the contract and maybe even after your first payroll. For some undisclosed reason, he/she does you a favor, saying it before you sign.


Edit: As pointed out in the comments, the first paragraph is worthless in the context of the US employment practices.

Then again, the HR person is not expected to be defending your best interest.


IMHO, 10% for two weeks is rather minor in regard to the whole lot of additional expenses related to changing jobs.

Just move on.

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    "For some undisclosed reason, he/she does you a favor, saying it before you sign." - The question is very explicit that OP was only informed after signing. – marcelm Jul 2 at 16:19
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    Offer letter is not an employment contract. Or is it? – fraxinus Jul 2 at 16:22
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    @fraxinus, in the US, contracts for employment are very rare. And no, an offer letter is definitely not a contract. People used to get multiple offer letters and then were expected to take the job they liked best. For the past 1-2 decades, most people are lucky to get a single offer letter, so they treat it as an informal contract to avoid losing out on the offer. – computercarguy Jul 2 at 16:57
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    I see. I'll edit my answer, then. – fraxinus Jul 2 at 17:05
  • @fraxinus Although an offer letter is not an enforceable contract but it is looked upon as proof of employment and used by lenders, real estate agents, landlords and others so if you haven't really established yourself financially yet and you're in the middle of relocating it can be VERY important for example. – HenryM Jul 3 at 15:59
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There have been a number of excellent answers, and some which seem to be ignoring that this is a very different time from most others.

There are a number of US companies which are making month-by-month, and sometimes week-by-week, decisions about workforce size and compensation. My employer has been doing that as well, so I'm personally experienced with this.

Recruitment and onboarding isn't something which happens immediately. It can take weeks to months from the time you're first recruited until you actually start. In my case, I was approached by a recruiter in late June, and I started in early November. For high-salary employees, that much time isn't at all unheard of. The initial salary offer, after multiple phone interviews and an in-person interview, was extended in mid-September, then all the usual drug tests, background checks, etc.

I share that detail because I don't know how long it took you.

It is very likely that if it took more than a few weeks from the time an initial offer was extended, and then you had background checks and other things before you were given a start date, that the personnel / HR department may not have known there was going to be a reduction in pay or hours.

The key to the current environment is the other company may also have such a thing going on. Just because another employer gave you a salary offer doesn't mean they won't also wind up needing to do a reduction in pay or hours in the near term as well.

Normally this would be a big red flag and a legitimate reason to be upset and withdraw your acceptance. Today it isn't. It's a normal fact of life.

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  • The pay cut was announced company-wide before I started interviewing, and it affects every employee, including the recruiters. I don’t see why a long interview process makes the failure to disclose more justified. If anything it seems to make it less justified because the recruiters had plenty of notice. – ASDFQWERTY Jul 18 at 9:58
  • It was just an example reason why it might have happened. The net is this affects everyone, not just you; it lasts 2 weeks; it's about 0.4% of your annual compensation if I did the math correctly; these aren't normal times. For me, if I were the HR person and you balked, I'd let you go. These just aren't normal times. – Julie in Austin Jul 21 at 19:19
  • your answer + comment could be more helpful/clear if they did 3 things: (1) Distinguish between balking at the pay cut and balking at the failure to disclose. (2) Explain why the size of the cut is relevant. (Stealing $5 is still bad, right?) (3) Explain how COVID-19 (assuming that's what's meant by "not normal times") frees the recruiter from the obligation to disclose facts material to the offer. Neither COVID-19 nor the dollar amount involved free people from ordinary standards of ethics, but it's hard to escape that implication from your answer. Is that what you meant? @Julie in Austin – ASDFQWERTY Jul 21 at 20:56

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