Pay Cut Without Demotion or Reprimand

Question the Ask the Workplace Doctors about a pay cut.

I have been working for the same company for 6 years. My boss cut my pay by 2.50 an hour. I have not been demoted as a matter of fact they’ve increased my work load. I have not been reprimanded in any way. I live in Florida which is a right to work state. They said take it or leave. I cannot collect unemployment if I leave, so they have me between a rock and a hard place. I can’t afford to live on $10.00 an hour barely made it on $12.50. Is this legal?

Between a Rock and A Hard Place

Dear Between a Rock and a Hard Place:
Your pay has been cut and you have been told to take it or leave it! You are not paid enough to support yourself or a family. That’s bad and that’s sad. Is it legal to cut your pay? Not that I know. Only a few states have minimum pay laws of $12.50 an hour more or less. We aren’t attorneys and a call by you to one can answer your question: Is it legal? Do that to satisfy your mind if you wish, but your time had better be spent in getting a second job or getting the training needed to earn higher pay.

For now, you have a job. That’s good. Apparently you have been responsible and know what is required for the work you do. You say you have “not been demoted as a matter of fact they’ve increased my work load. I have not been reprimanded in any way.” That’s good. You have spoken with your boss or someone where you work to say you object to the pay cut, but have you spoken with anyone there to learn about what is going on? Is your company losing money? Have you asked what you might do to be of more value to your employer and what other jobs are there you might apply for that pay better? Most bosses want to help if they know you are willing to listen to their advice and are not just a complainer. Have you asked yours for their advice and to explore with you what you might do to be more valuable to your workplace?

Six years with your workplace and now lower pay indicates there is trouble somewhere. During those six years have you learned more skills within the company or outside? If not, it is past time for a career adjustment. That’s a nice word for suggesting it’s time to face up to the hard fact that you might need to look for work elsewhere. So now while proving you are of value to your company, quietly take stock of yourself—what are your skills and what might you do you to make yourself more skilled and what would you like to do? These are the hard questions before you and not easy ones to ask when you are discouraged. I expect you have already consulted your employment agency and made an Internet job search.

Sooooo might you see this pay cut as a motivator, not one you like, but one that has forced you to examine your life? Please understand that the few thoughts I have may not apply to you because you don’t tell us much: don’t mention your job, your education, your age or if you have a family? But now is time for you to get all the advice you can. How? First by looking in the mirror, what do you see? Are you a cheerful individual that people like to be with? If not, work on that. Do you have a clean cut look that any boss would be proud to have on his/her staff? Do you speak clearly and take and receive instructions well?

Second, talk to someone who knows you and ask her/him these same questions. Take care not to complain and over explain. Ask that individual to think with you about steps you might take in acquire skills and make yourself employable where you can earn the pay you need. That might entail getting more training. Don’t give up. There are practical skills you can learn on your own and there are training and educational opportunities available. You might not have money and don’t want to go into debt, so find ways to learn without debt. While still doing your job, by volunteering before or after you are off work, there may be ways you can apprentice other skilled individuals without pay to learn skills.

Solving almost every job problem entails both attitude and process. You now are challenged to have a can do attitude and find the steps that can lead to where you want to be. I will be interested to learn if these few thoughts from afar make sense and spur you to courageously confront this disheartening pay cut. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. My best wishes.
William Gorden
Follow UP:
Hello Again, A few answers to your questions:I am a chef. I am the company cheerleader as I show up for work an hour early everyday, to make coffee and get everybody cheered up, I let them vent before we open so they have a better workday. I am a volunteer 2 days a week. I also shop for needed supplies almost daily for items needed at the bar or for my specials. I am the Community Chairperson, so I hold events in order to raise money for the needy, such as mothers helping mothers. I also am a emergency volunteer as we are a disaster staffing location. I have upgrades on all my certifications as in professional food safety manager, and liquor certifications. I have also enrolled in company leadership courses which were not required of me. I often come in on my days off to help with any other events. My customers love me, my crew loves me. Yes, we have lost some money but this happens yearly as our community is a tourist town and we rely heavily on season. I am 55 and going back to school seems a little crazy for me as I have said this is a service industry town. My children are grown and my husband suffered brain injury years back and lives in a special needs home, a 2 hour drive from where I live.

Reply: Thank you for painting a more complete picture of your situation–one that should persuade almost any manager to increase rather than cut your pay. So what now? At 55 you are far from dead, but you might find it harder than for the young to find work elsewhere. But with your experience and special qualifications, I expect there are other places in your town that would welcome you. It sounds like your life is full and that you will have to engage your manager to help him/her to realize you are more than worth what you are being paid or moonlight to make the extra dollars you now are missing with the pay cut. Please do stay in touch and update me with what you choose to do.
Dr. G