Is It Illegal to Have a Raise Freeze for More Than a Year?


When an employer does not give you a raise for more than a year you technically earn less money than the previous year, because inflation reduces your buying power. Although you may need a raise to help pay for rising food and gas costs, the employer does not have to offer you a cent more -- ever. In some cases, an employer is legally required to give you a raise.


Private employers are not obliged to give you a raise unless legally required. One common reason for raising your wages is a hike in the minimum wage. The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the minimum wage for nearly all workers in America. States can declare an even higher wage, which prevails over the rate set in the FLSA, as long as the state minimum wage exceeds federal minimum wage.

Legally Required Pay Raises

Your employment contract may dictate pay raises every year. Thus, you are entitled to a raise according to the details of that contract. The promise of a raise must be in a written contract. An employer can make a verbal promise for a raise in the future, but it does not have to deliver on that. Some pay raise freezes may be illegal when it discriminates against a certain demographics, such as when one gender makes significantly less than the opposite sex.


Employers usually give raises at least once a year to keep their top employees. If it has been at least one year since your last raise you should explore other employment opportunities. You might consider leaving even with a raise. Say, for instance, your employer gives you a 3 percent raise. If inflation is at 4 percent, you lose about 1 percent on your salary. When you ask for a raise, however, factor in the health of the company and your credentials. A company losing money, for example, might not be in a position to offer a raise, especially if you have not improved your productivity.


The best way to get a raise, even during a pay freeze, is after you achieve something notable and specific, like beating out other employees in sales. Your request for a raise should be based on your value to the company, not personal wants and needs. Do not compare your salary to a co-worker's or threaten to leave the company -- managers already understand that they could lose an employee by denying a request for a raise. If your manager denies a request for a raise, consider cutting back spending. You could ask for alternatives to a pay increase, such as working from home or additional vacation days.

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