A reader writes:
I was just hired for a job last week, a job which I really enjoy thus far and it looks like a job that I will continue to enjoy. Though it is not my "dream job," it is pretty good so far.
I was hired in at what the company calls 3/4 time. I am not part time, nor full time. When they hired me I was told that they expect me to work 30 hours a week as a salaried employee. The reason that they offer 3/4 time as an option is because they offer benefits to 3/4 time employees, albeit not quite as good of benefits as what full time employees. For example, the full time employees receive more vacation time, and get more of their health insurance paid for.
I was quoted a salary and was told that the salary was based on me working 3/4 time (30 hours a week). Today I was called in by my immediate supervisor and the head of the HR department. They told me that an error was made in the hiring process and that the salary they offered me was for a full time equivalent for this position, not a 3/4 time employee. The HR director told me that there was simply a misunderstanding between the CEO and the HR director regarding my salary. I was then told that I am now going to have to work as a full time employee with no salary increase.
This sounds very fishy to me. It appears as if I only have two options, quit, or accept what they told me. I did not sign any type of employee contract when I was hired. I will say that the HR director and my immediate supervisor appeared to be very apologetic and embarrassed over the situation. Do I believe that they are being honest with me? Mostly, yes, but after just one week on the job I can't say that I know them well enough to determine their level of honesty.
What do you think of this situation? Do you have any advice or should I just accept the situation? Do they sound like they are trying to scam me?
I don't have any reason to believe they're trying to scam you; it's possible, of course, but that would be pretty weird.
What I think is that they screwed up twice -- once on the salary they quoted you, and then again when they tried to "fix" it. You don't go to an employee and say, "Oh, by the way, we're giving you a pay cut because we made a mistake. Sorry!" The fact is, this error is theirs, and if I did this, I would decide that I had to suck it up and pay you what I had agreed for the number of hours I had agreed. I want employees to know that they can count on my word, especially in matters as important as job negotiations.
And if for some reason, they just absolutely cannot do what they promised you, they need to frame it differently. I would feel better about them if they had said to you, "We're mortified about this, and normally we would want to just accept the consequences of our error, but we can't because _____, and if you can't stay in the job under these circumstances, we completely understand." (Actually, maybe they did do this; I'm not sure from your letter.)
In any case, you can try to argue it -- "I accepted this job at a specific salary for a specific number of hours, and I turned down other offers to take it." I'm not a lawyer, but a lawyer might even tell you that you could have a breach of contract suit, even if the offer wasn't in writing (which it sounds like it wasn't) ... but lawsuits are rarely an option I advise, as they require huge amounts of time and stress (and often money), and the payoff -- if it comes at all -- can take years.
I think you're better off asking yourself this: If this had been the original offer, would you have taken it? If no, there's no reason you should accept it now. If you were prepared to walk away a few weeks ago, why not walk away now? But if you would have accepted it, then there's no harm in considering accepting it now.
On the other hand, you now have info about them that you didn't have originally: namely, the way they handled this very sticky situation. So I think you have to include this in the larger picture of what you know about them, as well as what general feeling you have about them, as you figure out how to proceed. (And I'm not saying this should absolutely damn them in your head; it depends on the nuances of how they addressed this with you.)
And in the future: You must get all job offers in writing, with a comprehensive listing of terms. Always, always, always.