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Can your employer fire you for asking about a raise?

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2022 | Employment Law |

Asking for more pay can be an important way for employees to protect their financial health. Unfortunately, making this request can be a daunting prospect. You might wonder how to ask the question in a way that gives you the best chance for success. You may be unsure what a reasonable pay increase would be.

Some employees face an even more urgent concern — will asking for a raise lead to their termination? What should employees know about requesting a pay increase?

Asking for a raise may be a protected activity–if done properly

One important protection the law offers you is protecting your right to engage in what is known as “concerted activity.” This term is often associated with forming or participating in a union, but all employees — whether or not they join a union — can take these protected actions. Concerted activity is a broad category of actions where two or more employees work together to improve conditions in their workplace, including:

  • Discussing your pay, benefits or other compensation with other employees
  • Discussing working conditions with other employees
  • Joining with other employees to request better pay or other workplace changes

In addition, even when you are the ONLY person involved, your requests or complaints to management and your attempts to obtain a raise may be protected. This protection attaches only when your requests to management are made “on behalf of” yourself and at least one other person–even if that person does not even know you are doing so, let alone asked you to do so.

So, if you say “I want a raise” that may not be protected unless you document that you said or emailed, “We should get a raise.”

Another situation where you would be protected is if you feel you are being treated differently because of your protected status and you clearly state something to the effect that you are being paid less due to gender or race, etc.

As a result, asking for a raise could be a protected activity in many cases. If this is true of your request, it is illegal for your employer to cut your hours, demote you, decrease your pay or fire you in response to your request.

What should an employee do if they have concerns?

If you asked for a raise and experienced unfair treatment in the workplace as a result, it is important to know your rights and explore your options. An experienced attorney can offer insight into the legal protection available to you and help you choose the best path forward in your case.