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More responsibilities, same pay

Q. Can a company change my title and not inform me? I was recently given a title higher than the title I was hired with. I was not informed of it, never got a raise and after I was told I was given more responsibilities, nothing in writing from their part. Can I demand a raise? How should I go about this?

A. This is an unusual situation but not unheard of. Without knowing all the details, it sounds like a confusing series of events and circumstances.

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Generally, an employer can change the terms and conditions of your employment. Some of the terms and conditions of your employment include an employee’s title, pay, working hours, work location, or job responsibilities. As long as the change is not done in a discriminatory manner, a change like this is usually permissible.

There are some exceptions though. If you have a written employment agreement or contract, you may have some protection. If you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement through a union, this change may also be prohibited. Collective bargaining agreements often cover such employment related topics such as wages, working hours, and benefits.

In most cases, it is permissable for an employer to change an employee’s title and an employee’s responsibilities. However, I think your supervisor should have explained in advance the reason for the change in both your title and responsibilities.

"Demanding" a raise in the current economic environment is a risk though. I would recommend that you take some time to evaluate your new responsibilities and your new title. Cooler heads often prevail. If you approach your employer in an emotional state, you may not be an effective negotiator. Many employers, especially right now, are reducing staff and asking employees to take on additional responsibilities and tasks. Hiring and compensation “freezes” are more common in this difficult economy.

Pay is an important factor in job satisfaction but certainly not the only factor. Consider other factors as well:

- Does your current role offer you interesting and challenging work?
- Do you like your company’s work environment and culture?
- Is your commute reasonable?
- Are your company’s employee benefits competitive?
- Do you have a good relationship with your supervisor and your co-workers?

After you take some time to evaluate your current role, ask your supervisor about your pay. I would approach your supervisor in a calm and non-threatening manner. I would not “demand” a pay increase for this request (especially if presented in a confrontational manner), because it could cost you your job. It may be helpful to research what is a competitive pay package for your role before you meet with your supervisor.

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