Is it legal for your boss to try to force you to sign a different offer letter with a pay cut and after working almost three months?

I walked into a meeting where I was told that I was being moved to another department and that I have to sign the new offer letter with a pay cut. He is trying to make me come in on my day off to have another meeting to try to force me to sign the new offer. Is this legal? What should I do I next?

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    You sure as anything don't have to sign anything. Is your real question whether they are terminate your current employment if you don't accept their new terms? If so, at very least you need to specify a jurisdiction but your question may be off-topic here. Commented May 2 at 4:24
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    Hi, sounds like a tough situation. Can you add a country and location? Be warned that strictly legal questions might be beyond what we can help you with.
    – Adam Burke
    Commented May 2 at 4:24
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    I am currently in California and the question is do I have to sign the new offer letter that has a pay cut. I’m worried they will fire me without signing the new offer letter.
    – Mialoves25
    Commented May 2 at 4:52
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    First you say "a different offer letter...after working almost three months", then "the new offer". Just to be clear, are they asking you to sign a new offer, or something backdated to replace the original one?
    – Reznik
    Commented May 2 at 12:44
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    This isn't an answer but I feel it is relevant - any time someone is trying to rush you to agree to something, pause and ask yourself "Why?". In my experience this is usually because it is more beneficial to them than it is to you and they don't want you to notice (incidentally this is very common in scams of all kinds, not that I'm saying this is a scam). Question why the rush to sign a new contract. I would absolutely echo the answers which say talk with someone who knows about these things either a lawyer or trusted family member with lots of experience, and/or start looking for a new job
    – ThaRobster
    Commented May 3 at 10:06

6 Answers 6


They can fire you at the drop of a hat.
If they want you to fill in this position, it looks like they don't need you in the position you have now.
I think you can look at it this way: You are already fired, and they are offering you another position, with less pay.
If you decline the offer, I don't think you will continue in the position you have now for very long.
Sign the offer letter, and start looking for another job. It's better to have a job while looking for a job, than not have a job while looking for a job...!

  • 48
    Being fired from a position earning X is sometimes better than taking a job paying X/2.
    – Yakk
    Commented May 2 at 14:45
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    ^^ Would probably depend on the unemployment benefits vs the new (cut) salary ... and "employed" looks better than "unemployed" on a resume.
    – Fildor
    Commented May 2 at 15:13
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    California is more regulated than most US states. Commented May 2 at 16:33
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    @DaleM Right. That is why the unemployment is so high, US has the worst economy, and people are leaving in droves. hmmm - Maybe I am wrong? How about one company, not the entire country?
    – DogBoy37
    Commented May 3 at 13:08
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    @DogBoy37 Ah, understood. Now that I read your comment again I realise I misread it. Thanks for explaining though. Cheers.
    – camden_kid
    Commented May 5 at 15:11

Don't take advice from any of the other answers. Talk to a lawyer.

The other answers aren't even wrong; especially in pointing out that your company can fire you any time, and that you're basically already fired and need to find a path forward.

Regardless. Unless you are totally happy just taking the new job, don't go sign anything. Talk to a lawyer first. If it's a substantial pay cut, you need to know what your actual options are. If you plan to work the new position while looking for a job elsewhere, you should look at how that compares with being laid off and collecting unemployment (more free time to look). Etc.

No-one on here has enough details of your situation or enough familiarity with how California law applies to answer. Go ask someone who does. It's worth spending a couple hundred bucks to get actually good advice on this.

Regarding the expense:

@MichaelMcFarlane pointed out that you may qualify for legal aide if your income level is low.

Many practices also offer reasonable rates for initial consultations, which might well be enough to understand your options.

Regardless, don't let concern over what the cost might be keep you from picking up the phone and calling around until you find something that works for you.

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    This one should be marked as the answer. You can ask for opinion here, but you should talk to a lawyer for sure. Commented May 2 at 17:10

In California, the relationship of employer and employee is generally “at will.” This means that, without an employment contract, the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause.

What that means is that unless you have a contract stating different terms, if you don't take that new job offer, they can still fire you from your old job, effective immediate.

In other countries, labor laws protect you from this. In the United States¹, this is not the case. You are free. Free to leave at any time, but also free to be fired at any time. Land of the free. Freedom doesn't always work out in your favor, sometimes it's the other persons freedom to be unfair to you that really sucks.

Also, I would consider whether you signing this offer is really neccessary on your day off. Surely, it would be enough to sign it on your next working day in the morning?

Even for a country like the US, this seems to be a lot of red flags. It's your decision if you want to continue working there. Even if you take the "new" job to pay your bills tomorrow, whether you want to stay there long term is something you should think about. You can always take the new job, treat it as temporary and look for a new job elsewhere ASAP.

¹ This depends on which state (within the USA) you work in. Much of the employment law is based on state statute and will vary depending on which state you work in.

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    Funny how people tend to grab onto one little thing about freedom and rant about that like that makes all of freedom a bad thing. </OT>
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 2 at 13:50
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    I do not imply freedom is a bad thing. I'm merely saying that "freedom" is not an absolute. One persons freedom always comes at a cost of another persons freedom. In this case, the freedom to hire/fire/quit at will comes at the cost to be hired/fired... at the will... of someone else.
    – nvoigt
    Commented May 2 at 14:10
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    @Freeman Funny how people tend to grab on one little thing of an answer and extrapolate that into a conclusion that was not even his point. Nowhere in this answer did he say or imply that "all of freedom" is a bad thing.
    – Kupo
    Commented May 2 at 14:37
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    @JoeStrazzere I disagree, I think it emphasizes a very important difference between US labor laws and those of other countries people reading this Q&A thread may be familiar with, and I think it is necessary to explain why the answer is correct. Commented May 2 at 20:29
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    I think it is important to point out, that this is isn't some unfair employer trick or legal loophole being exploited to the detriment of the poor employee being screwed over by the big evil company. This is one of the core values of the OPs country, it's what people proudly proclaim they want from their government and labor laws.
    – nvoigt
    Commented May 3 at 8:24

Is it legal for your boss to try to force you to sign a different offer letter with a pay cut and after working almost three months.

It's legal for your employer to ask you to sign the new letter. But you cannot be forced to sign an offer letter.

Of course, there may be repercussions if you don't, including being fired.

I walked into a meeting where I was told that I was being moved to another department and that I have to sign the new offer letter with a pay cut.

Unfortunately, reorgs happen (been there, done that). And it's possible that after seeing you in action for three months, they no longer think you are a good fit for your current role. Perhaps this is a way to try and keep you around in a lesser role.

Moving you to a new department isn't against the law. And asking you to take a pay cut isn't against the law.

Again, you don't have to accept either, but there will likely be repercussions if you do that.

He is trying to make me come in on my day off to have another meeting to try to force me to sign the new offer, is this legal? What should I do I next?

You don't need to come in on your day off if you don't want to. And you don't have to sign the new offer.

You need to decide if this is the hill you want to die on, or not. If you want, you can contact your lawyer first.

If you haven't already done so, you could agree to change departments, but indicate that you don't think it's fair to have your pay cut. It likely won't work, but thre's only one way to find out.

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    ...they no longer think you are a goof fit for your current role. - No, they still think that. Commented May 2 at 19:35

Less than 90 days <-- The most important piece of information in your question.

90 days is a common 'trial period' for permanent tech jobs in my area (not CA).
If not coming in on your day off means that you are over or are very close to 90 days... what I would do is go in on my day off and sign it. My fear is that if I don't, I may end up with an 80-ish day gap in my resume (which is hard to cover up).

In that situation it makes complete sense for them to ask you to come in on your day off.

I'm guessing that they don't want to fire you even though they don't think you can do the job.
Maybe they want to give you an 'out' because they like you.
Or maybe they don't think the circumstances have been fair to you
(job changed / they didn't train you well / project canceled / etc.).

If that isn't the case, then (as Joe said) speak with an attorney.
Specifically, an attorney familiar with California Employment Law.

If it were me, I would speak to an attorney so I know:

  • Do they owe me this new offer because they can't fire me?
  • Do they owe me nothing, and they're just being nice to me?

If you can't shell out $300+ for a consult from a qualified attorney, go in on your day off and sign the paperwork. After that, do your best at that job until you can find a better one.

IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer) and if I was, I'm still not your lawyer...
which is why I say you should consider getting one.

While I don't know what a CA Employment Attorney would cost, I consulted my wife's friend a dozen years ago about an employment situation. Her bill rate was over $200/hr back then... so I doubt a CA lawyer (with experience in Employment Law) is cheaper than 300 today.

  • Third and by far the most likely option: Company doesn't owe OP the new offer; they're making it because the new terms are a good deal (for the company)
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented May 3 at 14:45
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    If OP really is in crisis mode, then it is not only "do a good job", but "appear to do a good job".
    – Petter TB
    Commented May 6 at 10:31
  • @BenVoigt You certainly could be correct - but the positives for them are only less pay & they don't have to find someone new. Keeping him in the company is something I'd consider a risk. The negatives of having an employee in a position they didn't apply for and may not want, whom you're now paying less, seem more numerous and would possibly include bad customer service, lowered moral, lack of actual work, training him for the new position, etc. [continued] Commented May 8 at 12:32
  • Even if we assume malice on their part - a malicious person could hire a new person and abuse them at the end of their 3-month training period, same as they treated our OP (assuming CA, USA law actually treats that period differently). That'd be easier than dealing with OP who would now beyond 90 days (same company, so they can't reset that period I would think). Commented May 8 at 12:37

Sounds like you're already on the brink if you're worried about getting fired. Since you're being moved to another dept they've obviously already determined you aren't a good fit for the dept you're currently in. They've also already determined that your services aren't worth the original amount they agreed to pay you. It sounds as though they may be trying to inconvenience you with a pay cut and coming in on your day off in an effort to smoke you out. Always trust your gut instinct. You're usually always right.

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