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Questions on exempt employee benefits/rights in Arizona Arizona

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  • Questions on exempt employee benefits/rights in Arizona Arizona

    Hello there--thanks for taking a look at my question--it's a bit long-winded, so bear with me

    My husband works for a company in Arizona as an exempt employee. When he was hired he was given a contract that stated his salary would increase after he completed his PhD work, and additional papers that outlined his terms of employment, vacation and sick days, etc.

    The company has hit more dire financial straits, and have not yet increased his salary, despite the completion of his PhD. They have also sent out numerous memos removing his other benefits--for example, removing available sick days and vacation days, and informing him and other employees that vacation days they were told would roll over and collect year over year would instead be removed. In addition, they are now expecting him to pay for all of his own meals while visiting their NY office for an extended period of time, despite the standing policy of a $35 per diem allowance for meals.

    So, my obvious question is, can they do this? If my husband entered into the company expecting one thing, and is given another--is there any legal recourse here outside of a lawsuit?

    Thank you for any advice you can offer--

  • #2
    If there is an actual contract involved, your husband's best bet is to take it to an employment or contract attorney for review & advice.
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    • #3
      This is an over simplification, but basically there are three types of applicable law.
      - Statutory/regulatory labor law like FLSA is law imposed by the government on the parties. Things like minimum wage and overtime rules for non-exempt employees. The 100 or so Exempt classifications with their own rules specific to each Exempt classification. There is nothing in FLSA or statutory labor law that is concerned about the matters you just raised. The feds do not look at mandatory expense reimbursement at all, and CA is the only state with such a rule.
      - Contract law at its most basic is something for something. Party A does their something, party B does not, and party A takes party B to court to enforce the agreement. There is NOTHING simple about contract law. If the employee feels that a contract exists and has been breeched, then the only solution is to take the contract to a local atttorney who will have to review it. While all contracts are agreements, not all agreements are contracts. Based on what you have said there is no certainty that a legally enforcable agreement (otherwise known as a contract) exists. It is not possible to get good internet answer on contract law because it is always a function of the exact wording of the contract, and a function of applicable state law as well. The exact same agreement does not mean the same thing state to state.
      - And to further muddy the waters, there is something called Common Law, which is basically the accumlation of prior court decisions going back a thousand years and more into English Common Law. On of the American Common Law principals is Employment At Will. Basically either side can alter the employment arrangement on a go forward basis. Employment At Will is not absolute, but it is also not nothing. An explict valid contract can override Common Law, but absent a contract, and absent applicable statutory/regulatory law, Common Law is indeed the law of the land.
      "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
      Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


      • #4
        The wording of his contract is going to be key here. The vast majority of employees are not under contract but rather are given offer letters and copies of policies which have no force in law. Only an attorney who specializes in contracts and who has read the documents in their entirety can tell you for sure which you have. There is nothing in the law itself which would require that he be given a raise when he obtained his PhD, be given per diem when he visits another facility, or be granted vacation time the same as he was at the time of hire. All of these are a matter of company policy in your state.
        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.