After some salary haggling, I signed a contract to work for a company. The contract stated my salary, 40 hours per week, a review in a year with a possible raise for a successful review.

Well, the year is up and I stated to my boss(2nd in charge) that I wanted my yearly review. He came back to me and said his boss(owner) said I was at my salary cap.

I have not had 1 raise the whole time so I'm at the same salary I started at. How can I be at my salary cap without a raise and the contract states I can get a raise if I have a successful review? There was no mention of my review be it positive or negative. I wasn't even a part of the review but I don't know the process.

My boss said he COULD PROBABLY get me a bonus if I finish the project in set amount of time. I didn't get it in writing, though and I don't believe that this is going to happen.

What are my options? Any ideas legally(breach of contract), call a Meeting and tell them what I think about their integrity, ....

  • @JoeStrazzere And that comment is passive aggressive. When hired the OP was told a raise was possible now OP is told a raise is not possible. Salary cap as the stated reason doe not erase the original commitment of "possible raise". – paparazzo Apr 23 '16 at 17:30
  • @JoeStrazzere No I am simply assuming "a possible raise" means just that. – paparazzo Apr 23 '16 at 17:33
  • @JoeStrazzere "Possible raise for a successful review". You are taking that to mean the raise itself may or may not be possible regardless of the review. So if there was a drawing for the car behind the curtain and there was no actual car behind the curtain that would be fair? This is not different. He is told there is no raise. Not that he failed to qualify for the raise. That is different. – paparazzo Apr 23 '16 at 17:53
  • @Paparazzi .This is the point I was trying to make of... the salary cap does NOT erase the original commitment of a "possible raise". They love my work and tell the newbie to make his like mine. I didn't get a review(not a good nor bad review) but the issue went straight to the raise and I was denied with the reason cited as salary cap. – Omni Apr 23 '16 at 17:53
  • @Omni Totally not fair if they said "Possible raise for a successful review" but the are now telling the raise itself is gone. Any reasonable person would imply there is a raise and it is contingent on a successful review. They could simply state you did not meet the criteria of a successful review or give you a min raise of $10. I don't see that legal action would do you any good. – paparazzo Apr 23 '16 at 18:00

If the contract said "possible raise for a successful review" then it doesn't promise anything, so there is no breach of contract. Considering that the "you are at the salary cap" statement comes from the company owner, it's obviously an excuse. Who decides what that "salary cap" is if not him?

The situation is simply that they would prefer to rather not pay you more than you already get. If you think you are worth more but they think you are not, there are just two options: Live with it or get a new job.

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  • If the contract says possible raise but he's being told that another factor makes it impossible, that would be a breach of contract because it is making it such that a good review is now deemed irrelevant. Of course, there is no breach of contract until he has obtained a provably positive review and evidence of not getting a raise due to this cap. – Olipro Apr 24 '16 at 13:30
  • @JoeStrazzere, in some jurisdictions, the contract and situation, as described, would put the employer in the wrong. While he was never promised a raise, he was promised consideration of a raise, and he didn't receive that. Since he was at his salary cap when hired, the employer had no intention of giving him a raise. Yet despite this, they held out the possibility of a raise to induce him to work for them. – Resigned Apr 25 '16 at 22:56
  • @JoeStrazzere, This may come down to jurisdiction. My logic doesn't make a lot of sense in an at-will jurisdiction, because the employer is free to let him go at any time. But where employment is not at-will, such as where I work (Canada), the distinctions make more sense. Either the salary cap was in place at hiring or it wasn't. If it was, the offer was made in bad faith. If it wasn't, creating the salary cap was an act of bad faith. Either way, the employer is on the wrong side on this one. – Resigned Apr 25 '16 at 23:12
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    Of course, this is all academic. Even in places where the OP would prevail, it would cost more in legal fees than he would receive in an award. If the OP is too offended to continue working for them, he should find another job. Otherwise, chalk it up to experience. – Resigned Apr 25 '16 at 23:15

Personally I wouldn't bother with a breach of contract action as what would that accomplish? Further poison the relationship to hang on to a job with a bunch of promise-breaking creeps? This question is largely opinion based, so all I can tell you is what I would do, not what you should do.

First, I would look around and make sure that the going market rate for my skills is at least equal to or above my current pay. If they are already paying me more than I can get elsewhere, then that will inform my next actions.

If it is possible to get equal pay or better elsewhere:

Then, I would have a sit down with my immediate supervisor (and the higher boss if he wants to come). I would bring my contract. I would keep my tone very neutral, not hostile or accusatory. My goal is simply to get final clarity on their plans -- whether they plan to honor the contract or not -- and to give them a final opportunity to do the right thing.

I would discuss my contract with them, and point out the clause where it says that I get a review (and raise) after a year of satisfactory work. Then I would ask what their plan is; if they intend to follow through on that clause. If he says "No, you're already at the cap of what we're willing to pay," then I would not make any threats about leaving or about bringing suit. I would thank them for their time, and say that I will plan accordingly. If they are smart and want to keep you, then they will read between those lines and possibly change course. If not, then at least you know what kind of people they are.

Next, I would start looking for a new job. In the meantime, no more unpaid extra effort for current job. I would not burn any bridges, and still give my best effort during my contractually obligated 40 hours, but that's all they get. If they ask me to do something on the weekend, I would say, "sorry, I'm busy."

Finally, I would accept the first promising offer that came along with a suitable compensation and convenient location. I would not hold out for a major raise. These people have demonstrated that they do not honor their commitments, and I would be anxious to move on.

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  • @JoeStrazzere: I can see where my answer could be read with a passive aggressive tone -- which was not my intent. I have modified it to be more clear. – MealyPotatoes Apr 23 '16 at 16:52
  • @JoeStrazzere: meh. I think we mostly agree on overall approach, and I understand why you say don't bother with meeting. However, personally, I like to give them an opportunity to make things right, and it provides clarity when it's time to leave, and avoids argument. But if OP leaves that step out, it's fine. – MealyPotatoes Apr 23 '16 at 17:29
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    I would also take a very critical look at the contract. Does it have clear, indisputable terms? The OPs question has "wiggle words", like "may" in it. "May" doesn't mean "Will", it just means that there is a potential for something to happen - not that it is certain to happen. This answer is very good though - get clarity, make a decision, balance your current commitment (do not do more for them than they do for you), and get out sooner rather than later. – Luke Stevenson Apr 23 '16 at 17:57


a review in a year with a possible raise for a successful review

Now they are telling you there is no raise. Not that you did not qualify for a raise based on your review. There simply is no raise available period. If they want to say the raise itself is still in place but unfortunately the number is $0 then I would say not fair. To any reasonable person a raise is a number > 0 and not trivial. To me even 1% is still a legitimate raise (just a small one). Can you do anything about is legally - probably not.

They also failed to to deliver a review in a year. If they performed the review but simply did not share the results with you then they failed to deliver on the promise also. Can you do anything about is legally - probably not.

Sounds like your boss is going to bat for you but performance is not rewarded. You need to be profession but ask for a meeting.

  • Don't question their integrity
    Nothing good would come from that
  • My understanding is a review in the first year
    What are the results of that review
  • On the salary cap
    What is the cap? Based on the contract I assumed a raise > $0 was at least a possibility. If you are telling me no raise is possible then what is my incentive to over perform? I feel like I am working extra hours and over performing.
  • COULD PROBABLY get me a bonus
    If the owner denied a raise based on cap then don't count on it
    Get a number - so you can a least be denied a number

Based on the outcome from that meeting your best option may be to look for another job. Or just hand in at the current job but just work the required 40 hours. If you performance is not rewarded then you have no incentive to work extra hours. But still put out you best during regular hours.

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What are my options? Any ideas legally(breach of contract), call a Meeting and tell them what I think about their integrity

I doubt there is anything legally you could do about it, but there is always other options

Ask for your review again, attempt to see if one had actually even been done.

Tell them there must be a misunderstanding and it needs to be resolved, with an implication that it is something you would quit over. This is what I would actually do. I tend to take the hard line and let them make the compromises. But obviously this can backfire.

Do nothing and keep your job at the same pay and hope they don't decide to give you less at some point.

Realistically I work for the money, if I want more money and I'm convinced I deserve more, then I couldn't care less if they have some salary cap or not, that's their issue, my issue is I want more. Otherwise I'll find someone who will give it to me.

So in writing my manager would get something like the following which he can then pass on to whoever.

"Hello boss, there seems to be some misunderstanding regarding my contract and I need some clarification. I took the job on the understanding that this would be a progressive move for me, and that I'd be reviewed and given raises if I merit it periodically. I have worked very hard on this assumption and done a solid job and fully believe I have earned my keep and more.

But now I've been told I'm on a salary cap, which makes this a stagnant position for me with no way forwards. Can you confirm this please so I can understand fully and review my options.

Kind regards XYXY "

You got your response from the manager, this puts the issue back on the table and the ball in their court rather than just accepting whatever you're given.

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