My boss recently said that the company wants to switch the programmers from hourly to (exempt) salary position, without any kind of raise or compensation. All of us will be taking a hit in our net pay as a result.

It was my understanding that a salaried position paid a higher wage due to the expectation that some overtime would be included.

Does this seem legitimate? We were hired in as hourly, and I don't get how they can force us to be salaried without any agreement on our part.

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    Seems crappy but there is nothing that can prevent this unless you have a contract stating otherwise. This question however is not something we can address here. Commented May 4, 2015 at 2:44
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    I am not a lawyer, but...If you are in the US, you are almost certainly exempt from the law which requires paying overtime anyway. Anyway, this is quite simply a change in the terms of your contract, if in the US, your choices are probably accept it, negotiate better terms, or leave.
    – jmoreno
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 3:44
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    where are you? in Australia and UK being salaried includes things like paid annual leave and sick leave, which being paid hourly doesn't
    – HorusKol
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 4:09
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    @HorusKol err no the uk your statutory rights are not effected by being salaried or not
    – Pepone
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:22
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    What is the location? In the US, yes, even though there are many at-will states, job categories cannot be simply switched from non-exempt to exempt. Most professional jobs are exempt, and if you were misclassified before, they can switch you, but they can't, if you're in a non-exempt job classification. Generally, that is. Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:49

6 Answers 6


Nobody can force you to accept a significant change to your working conditions without your consent. You can always decline the change. The downside of course is what the company do then, and laying you off is always an option.

In most countries the company would be forced to lay you off without cause, which would require some notice and/or compensation. In most states of the good ol' US of A they can just fire you without consequence.

EDIT: JoeStrazerre has convinced me that this is legal in most states of the US. I'm pretty sure it would be illegal in any other developed country.

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    @JoeStrazzere I believe this is true. There is an implied contract, even if there isn't an actual one, and a material change of job conditions would be a breach of it. Obviously they can actually impose the change, in which case your resorts are either quit or sue. I am not a lawyer of course, and this depends on jurisdiction. Commented May 4, 2015 at 13:23
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    US is one of the areas I'm least familiar with, and your examples are convincing. In any other developed country this would be highly illegal. But you seem to be right about the US. Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:04
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    It's likely considered "constructive discharge", and you should be eligible for unemployment if they let you go.
    – Adam V
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:08
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    @AdamV ...and likely be eligible for unemployment even if you quit. Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:25
  • @DJClayworth - that's true too. (I think that's what I meant, but it's not what I typed.) :)
    – Adam V
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:37

I am going to answer this as it is in the US.

First most states employment is at will and you could just be fired if you don't agree with the terms. But the chances are that your company doesn't want to get rid of their staff and you.

If their entire goal is to turn their business into a sweatshop and work you to death because you are salary then the probable outcome will be the staff end up finding better jobs slowly since their hourly average will be much below industry standard.

What would I do if I faced this situation? Call a team meeting with the people being effected and the management. I am almost positive your co-workers are not happy about this and have the same stance as you. You need to ask management why the change.

If your shop has tons of OT and they want it to continue for free as a team I would ask for salaries to be compensatory of the average paycheck you are getting now. It is really that easy. If you work 50 hours now and go to salary your salary should be based on the 10 OT hours a week you will work, and there will be an expectation that you continue working those hours or become so efficient that you can do 50 hours work in less time.

Now if management says that "things are changing" and they don't expect the hours... well obviously I wouldn't believe it. But this is really easy to counter too. You ask what the expectations of work are for salary employees. Then give examples of what would happen if a salary employee works 10 hours more one week. If this doesn't include a chance for the employee to recoup their time then you are back to square one of getting a lot less for same hours. At my work I am salary and have to work nights and weekends to do things out of peak hours - loading new software, server cleanup, and whatever. My boss could care less if I left at 2 PM a couple days during the week.

The probability of this working for you lies in your coworkers standing together. If it doesn't work people will leave at a rapid pace (we did this in our US offices with our network team and it failed miserably). Good luck.


I was witness to this at a company I worked at. The desktop support team was overworked, but hourly. They weren't super happy, but the extra money greased things over.

Management decided just as here to move them to salaried. They stood up as a group and confronted our CEO during an all hands and she seemed surprised at the move. Many managers have never worked in the trenches and don't really understand the reality of hourly vs. salaried in a lot of cases.

You should find out from your direct manager how high up the chain this decision was made. Go to that individuals assistant (they most likely have one) and schedule a meeting for your entire team. Unity is important here, you are effectively collective bargaining. Layout how this affects you, how it was received and that as a whole you are all very unhappy.

As developers you are unfortunately in an exempted class legally assuming you are in the US and there is no way to legally force the overtime issue. However, as a collective unit you have a few options.

  1. You could go on "strike", this has the obvious risks of being fired, but it sounds like you may not want to work there much long if conditions don't change.

  2. You could also do a sit in. In this case, the whole team arrives at the same time and leaves 9 hours later, with an exact 1 hour lunch where phones and computers are off. Once you leave, that's it. Leave the laptop secured at the office, turn off the company phone if you have one and go home. I should also add if you have work email on your personal device get it off there. You are on another planet once 5:00 hits, you don't answer the phone from anyone at office.

You should also be sharpening your resume.


In Canada they would have a difficult time with this. It varies by province but generally to be overtime exempt your primary duties (regardless of job title) must be managerial. On top of that any material change to your contract would require both parties to sign. If they were to fire you for not agreeing to this change you would still qualify for employment insurance the same as if you quit because they weren't paying you.

  • ...and I believe you could reasonably sue them for the severance they should have paid you if they let you go. Commented May 8, 2015 at 19:14
  • From my understanding the Canadian legal system would be more likely to force them to offer you your job back (to the chagrin of all parties involved) than award monetary damages.
    – Myles
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 19:23
  • Possibly, but I think the usual outcome of being forced to take you back is that the company negotiates with you for a voluntary redundancy package. Commented May 8, 2015 at 19:25

Read your contract. In most cases this is going to be entirely "legitimate", and your only choice is whether to grumble, leave, or work with your management to understand what they need to see from you to justify a raise.

(In my experience promotion just means increased opportunity to earn a raise... or to be zapped for not meeting the enhanced responsibilities. Fighting it tends to lead to tne latter.)


I have gone from being hourly onto salary but have a very cheap employer who does not value employees. I thought it would change with the promotion but he's just a horrible human being. In California as I have read it you can not be paid less than minimum wage in order to be exempt. So in my case being paid 1000 bi weekly working 50 hours a week, let's break it down. If 40 hours at current minimum of 9 an hour makes 360 weekly no overtime. Anything over 40 hours weekly will need to be above minimum as time and a half at minimum. So times 10 by 9 by time and a half, this equals 135. Added up the minimum salary exempt value that can be paid for my 50 weekly hours is 495. I'm being paid 1000 biweekly, which means I am being paid $5 above the minimum statutory allowed value for my time. Hopefully that helps you. Sorry your boss is a POS.

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