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I got promoted with a raise. The person I was replacing had put in their two week notice but then decided not to leave and I was put back in my regular position with less of an raise. I'm real salty about this. Is this fair?

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    If you add your country tag to this question, you can get more accurate answers. Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:04
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    Why do you care of that's fair or not? Isn't a better questions "what are my options on how to deal with this and what are the pros and cons of each option"?
    – Hilmar
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:05
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    Please add a country tag, there are huge differences between the "wild west" of labor laws that some US states are, and for example complicated labor laws of Europe.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:25
  • Did you start in the new position? Did you formally start performing those new duties?
    – Donald
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 17:02
  • (1) If he changes his mind again and actually leaves, do you get the promotion again? (2) Can you make his life so miserable that he will change his mind again and actually leave? Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 6:54

4 Answers 4

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Is it fair?

No.

But that's not really the question you want to ask, though, is it? You want to know is it legal and what recourse you have.

I've done a bit of reading (not a lawyer) and the answer seems to be quite interesting.

First question: Did you sign a new contract stating your new position and new pay rate? If the answer is 'Yes' - this will make things much easier - simply decline to sign a new contract with your old job title and reduced salary.

I'm betting though, you didn't sign a new contract. Hopefully you do have the agreed amount in writing in Email.

Next question: Have you worked a day in your new position and at the new, higher rate? If yes - then this is a demotion - we'll get to that in a mo.

Looking through the info on this - the short answer is 'It's not illegal' - but the longer answer appears to be more interesting: Most countries have a concept of good faith negotiating and rescinding a pay rise without an adequate reason suggests that this could fall foul of this. The same is true if this is a Demotion.

Several sites list the 'valid' reasons for doing this are:

  • Underperforming
  • Business struggles/hardship
  • Disciplinary reasons
  • restructuring/reorg.

From the business point of view - they may have a good case to make that a position was being vacated and that the higher rate is tied to said position, but once that position was no longer being vacated, the promotion and increase was no longer justified.

However, I think you would have a good counter-argument pointing out that if the company feels that you have the skills and experience to handle that role, then you have the skills and experience to command the higher salary. Furthermore, that position is now a flight-risk and having you trained up and able to float between roles has advantages to the company.

All-in-All, seeing Payrises and promotions get revoked is, IMO a bit scummy. I would be wary of my continued employment with a company that acted in this manner. They may not feel they have done anything wrong - afterall, business needs changed and there was no deception on their part, but at the same time - I believe they should honor it, even if it means they have two people in a role that traditionally has one.

I would be tarting up my Resume and having a talk to all the local recruiters to see what is out there.

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    "if the company feels that you have the skills and experience to handle that role, then you have the skills and experience to command the higher salary." - surely the company would shoot back that: they believe the OP will quickly grow into the role and are prepared to give a chance when there is a vacancy, but they aren't willing to pay the full salary to someone who isn't presently occupying the role which attracts that salary? There may be several who the company thinks could get into the role - they're not going to pay several potentials all the full salary.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:50
  • @Steve - there may be several, but the fact OP was picked suggests strongly that they were the best choice Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 17:49
  • "...command the higher salary" only if there is an available position to match the salary, though
    – njzk2
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 15:25
  • @njzk2 - As I said in my answer, the business can make that case, but the employee can also say 'This is what you think my time is worth, and so this is what I want to be paid' and have a pretty good argument to make. Afterall, if they had the skills and experience for the Role at their current company they have the skills and experience for the role at other companies Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 18:49
  • They are saying this is what your time is worth if you are fulfilling that role, if you are fulfilling a lesser role, your time is worth a lesser amount.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 17:11
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Is this fair?

No, it is not fair.

Sorry this happens to you.

An important question is whether there is a binding employment contract between you and your employer, and how feasible or legal it is for the employer to change the contract against your will. This highly depends on the labor law of your country. Therefore, you may also want to consult a labor law attorney in your city for more info if necessary.


Employment contract aside, generally speaking, your employer's action seems not illegal (in some countries at least) because it is not a form discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, disability status, etc...

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    If an employment contract was formed, unilaterally changing it is illegal in any jurisdiction, regardless of whether some form of discrimination is involved.
    – quarague
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 9:40
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    @quarague That depends, in The Netherlands, some things can be changed unilaterally, but that definitely does not cover things like remuneration (i.e. salary, benefits). Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 11:55
  • (note that in many jurisdiction, even verbal agreements are binding contracts, even if a bit difficult to enforce)
    – njzk2
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 15:26
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Talk to your union about whether this is within your contract. It probably is.

That said, if they do not give you what they promised in some other way and you feel deceived or worse, then you will probably stay unhappy about it the rest of the time you work for them.

I would suggest mentioning to your boss very clearly that this is very important to you and see what the response is. If they don't care because it is just business, I would also suggest that you find a better employer.

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Fairness is not really the question here. The question is in what form you were promoted and given a raise.

If that is all in writing then in most jurisdiction your employer can't simply retract that but rather needs to form a new contract with you at the lower salary and position. The employer needs your signature for that but how much pressure they can put on you heavily depends on the jurisdiction.

If on the other hand the raise and promotion where just verbal offers then your employer is behaving in a not-nice, untrustworthy way but didn't do anything illegal. You can then choose whether you want to put up with this kind of behavior or whether you want to look for a new employer who treats their employees more fairly.

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  • "your employer is behaving in a not-nice, untrustworthy way" - that's a bit of a harsh characterisation here. The employer believed a staff member was leaving and promised a promotion to an internal replacement. The incumbent staff member has withdrawn their resignation during their 2-week notice period, so there is no longer a position to fill. They've nevertheless granted a lesser raise to the would-be replacement who is now let down. It doesn't sound like a classic case of employer malevolence to me.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:36
  • @Steve The first sentence of OP is I got promoted with a raise. Note that this doesn't sound like a promise of something that may happen in the future but like something that already did happen. Then the employer tried to undo that. That sounds like a classic case of a malevolent employer to me.
    – quarague
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 9:38
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    Yes but against that, they mention that the incumbent's notice was 2 weeks, and they withdrew the resignation during that 2 weeks. It sounds to me like the most likely approach the employer took was to ask the OP "will you replace John now he's leaving?". The OP said "Yes", but in the event John didn't leave, so the arrangement has collapsed, and the OP counted their chicken before it hatched. I have a somewhat jaundiced view of employers, but without more, I struggle to see how the employer gained from this charade.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 10:26
  • @Steve The "lesser raise" is simply a feel good move by the company to gloss over the fact that they pulled a major dick move on the OP. It is not unheard of for people to rescind notices, so the OPs company should not have been promising things that they couldn't deliver. At the very least they should have waited until the other person had actually left. And saying the OP was counting chickens has a smell of victim blaming, as the company promoted them, not them chasing a promotion with the idea that they, and only they deserved this promotion.
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 16:15
  • @PeterM, we don't know what they promised, but I doubt it was promised in terms that would have caused the OP think, if the departing member of staff didn't actually depart, that they would still receive that role. The employer is not very well going to wait until the other person leaves before even discussing who is to take over, are they? You're assuming the OP had some kind of contract and it has been rescinded. With resignation given and withdrawn all in less than two weeks, I doubt anything got beyond the verbal stage: a promise (in earnest) to promote the OP into the vacated role.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 16:30

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