“If my friend is not getting paid what was promised in her offer letter, does she have any way to correct this?”

Question: A friend of mine recently found out that the terms of her offer letter were not being honored. Namely, she was hired as a supervisor, and is performing the tasks of a supervisor, but recently found out that she’s being paid as a non-supervisor, hourly wage basis.

The hiring manager acknowledges the information, but refuses to recast it or change her pay to the management level. What recourse does she have?

Brentwood, Maryland

Answer: “Offer Letter” is another term for short, simple employment agreement. Offer Letters typically provide the title, pay, benefits and start date of a job offered to a job applicant. They are as enforceable as any other form of contract.

The first issue your friend faces is whether her Offer Letter is as clear as you describe it to be. If, indeed, it says that she will be paid the same level as a supervisor, and she is not being paid at that level, then she has a simple, strong winning “case.”

The second issue your friend faces is how, where and when to “make her case.” Surely it’s not the best thing for employment relations to sue your employer in Court. And it’s often smart to stay on the better side of your boss. That being said, fair is fair, honest is honest, and a promise is a promise.

My suggestion is that your friend start with a brief conversation about the “apparent discrepancy” with her boss, and perhaps her Human Resources representative. If a brief conversation does not fix the problem, she might then send a respectful email to her boss’s boss, or perhaps the Head of Human Resources for her company.

Employers rarely engage in intentional non-payment of promised compensation, and even more rarely after they are caught “with their hands in someone else’s wallet,” and that is how I would describe an obvious violation of a clear, written Offer Letter. That’s because the labor laws of most states and the federal government make intentional non-payment of promised wages – which usually include even managers’ “wages” – a violation of law that imposes on employers (a) penalties of up to 100%, (b) assessment of interest on unpaid monies, and (c) the obligation to pay the employee’s legal fees.

Her next two steps would be the employer’s senior management, or to her State Labor Board. Only as a last resort should your friend consider legal action, due to its costs, delays, and the potential for being labeled a “wiseguy” or “wisegal” by certain managers.

Each and every step should be in writing, and respectful. Most states make retaliation for seeking the payment of wages you were promised to be an even more serious violation of law.

If you would like to obtain a “model” memo to help you collect
monies owed to you by your present employer [click here].

Hope this helps your friend.

Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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