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no follow through on a verbal promise of promotion and pay increase

I work for a Fortune 500 company and late last year was verbally promised a promotion and increase in pay of more than $10,000 per year. This was to be effective no more than four months after relocation, in order to allow time for regional training. I accepted, sold my home and moved over 1,000 miles to New York.
It has now been more than eight months, I successfully completed training, and my job performance has been consistently rated above expectation. I have been doing the job without the increase in pay for six months now. When I question upper management, I am repeatedly told to be patient and keep up the good work.
I have sold my home, moved seven states away, lost thousands of dollars in a custody battle because I moved, and I have not yet seen any pay increase even though I am performing the job functions at a level above expectation.
What are my options?

1 answer  |  asked Dec 1, 2005 7:09 PM [EST] in Contracts  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Promises Promises

I have to note here that I am using the fact pattern presented in your query as the basis for a general discussion that may be of interest not just for you but for others coming to this website looking for general information about their workplace rights.

If you want more definitive information about your options, you need to set up a consultation with a qualified attorney. A thorough analysis of your situation might well require more than simply an initial consultation.

One big problem you have is, of course, you have nothing in writing. Oral agreements are difficult to establish in court.

Another problem is that NY is an employment at will state. This doctrine, often discussed on this website, has many permutations. Another of these permutations is that an employer can change the terms of your employment at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. Meaning, an employer has every right to change your duties, change your rate of pay, or change anything else about your job, including your job location, at any time for any reason. A court could seize on the employment at will doctrine and say that the employer had the right to change its mind about your promotion.

The one thing I see in your query which works in your favor is that it seems that you relied on the promise of promotion to your detriment, that is, you up and moved, selling your house. There is some influential caselaw in NY which says you are entitled at least to compensation for your trouble. You might not be entitled to the promotion, but you might be entitled to damages to compensate you for the costs you incurred in moving. Although this case law is helpful to you, you should also know that I see a pattern in the caselaw where courts try to minimize the application of this caselaw in order to perserve the employment at law doctrine.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Dec 2, 2005 09:42 AM [EST]