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Can I Get Fired for Asking for a Raise? (Maybe, here’s why)

For employes fairly new to the workforce, asking for a raise can be intimidating! But even worse is that many newer employees wonder “can I get fired for asking for a raise?”

In an at-will state, employees can be fired at any time for any reason that doesn’t violate the law. However, most employers will not fire you just for asking for a raise. But if you are underperforming, or often call in sick or show up late, asking for a raise could remind your employer that you aren’t a good fit.

So you’ve been at your job for a while now. You’ve done all of your training and you’re navigating office politics like a seasoned pro. You come to work on time every time and with a great attitude.

You’ve noticed that some of your coworkers are leaving for competitors with the promise of higher pay. But you know what a hassle it is to change jobs, and you really like your current gig, so you feel a sense of loyalty.

But you really could use a raise.

Asking for a raise is a completely normal part of being an employee. But it can be difficult to approach a manager about a pay raise. Should you ask for a raise? What, if any, are the repercussions for asking for a raise? Could you get fired?

Keep reading to find out!

Can you lose your job for asking for a raise?

Yes is the short answer.

But it’s very unlikely as it’s simply not a good business practice to fire someone simply for asking for a raise.

In fact, you can get fired for anything that’s not protected by federal law (think gender, race, pregnancy, and disability), particularly if you are an at-will employee.

An at-will employee can be fired at any time, for any reason, with a few exceptions that would violate federal employment law, like discrimination. In turn, at-will employees can quit at any time, without notice.

There are some exceptions to at-will employment.

If you work in the public sector, if you are a union worker, or if you are refusing to violate public policy, you cannot be fired for no discernible reason.

You should be aware of whether or not you are an at-will employee and chances are, that you are an “at-will” employee, as all states recognize at-will employment, with a few states that have limitations in place, in addition to federal law.

If you are a citizen of one of the states listed below, you should refer to those laws and regulations as it relates to employee’s rights. These states have various limitations and restrictions as it pertains to at-will employment.

Here are all of the at-will states:

Alabama Missouri
Alaska Nebraska
Arizona New York
California North Carolina
Delaware Pennsylvania
Florida Rhode Island
Georgia Texas
Indiana Utah
Louisiana Virginia
Massachusetts Wyoming

What should you do if you ask for a raise and get turned down?

If you do ask for a raise and you get denied, ask for feedback and actionable steps so that you can improve. Then act on the feedback given.

For example, if your manager or boss tells you that you miss too many days or make too many mistakes, stop calling out sick because you partied too hard the night before. Better yet, stop staying out late when you have to go to work the next day. Come in fresh and ready to work.

If you’re making too many small mistakes, slow down and think about what you are doing.

Ask a coworker for help if you need it. Asking for help shows an eagerness to learn and to do things properly. Managers would much rather you ask for help than do work that is incomplete, half-hearted or just wrong.

If you are not a team player or have a bad attitude, check yourself and your attitude at the door. If you just can’t seem to get in a better mindset, maybe it’s time to just time to look for another job instead of asking for a raise.

But always remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

By that, I mean that while it’s OK to leave a job that just isn’t a good fit for you, you don’t want to leave simply because your boss has high standards. Because if you don’t excel at your work, chances are you won’t at the next job either. And that boss might have even higher expectations.

You can’t run away from yourself. So do whatever it takes to give 100% to your job; even if you know this isn’t your forever job or long-term career path. Learn to strive for excellence. It’s a skill that will serve you throughout life AND will be much more likely to get you that raise.

Most importantly, if you get denied for a raise, do not get hostile or give your manager an ultimatum (e.g. “Give me a raise or I’ll quit!”). This kind of behavior is completely unacceptable and likely to get you fired.

How long should you work for a company before asking for a raise?

According to this Glassdoor survey, 45% of employees who quit their job, cite salary as the primary reason for leaving their jobs.

BUT, assuming you’re working for a good company, it’s always easier and faster to move up the ladder (and payscale) staying with 1 company rather than jumping around.

There isn’t a particular waiting period before asking for a raise, from a legal standpoint. But, you should ensure that you’ve been at your company long enough to prove that you are a valuable asset.

If you are underperforming or still learning, it’s probably not the best time to ask for a raise.

However, if you’ve proven yourself by coming in to work when you’re supposed to, you don’t contribute to office gossip, and you go above and beyond in your duties, you are in a good position to ask for a raise.

A good rule of thumb is to wait a minimum of six months to a year before asking for a raise. That’s enough time to prove that you are a valuable team member and willing and able to put in the effort that the job requires. But some large companies will have a set scheduled for evaluations and wage reviews.

When you do ask for a raise, have a clear goal in mind.

Find out what your work is worth by talking to colleagues, doing research online, and talking to other people in the industry.

Don’t ask for a raise when your manager is in a bad mood or has had a particularly harrowing day. When you approach your manager, do it respectfully and with a dollar amount in mind.

Additionally, you should find out when the salary review process happens.

Many large companies, especially chain stores, will have a set HR schedule that determines when job reviews and pay raises happen.

Finally, keep the focus on your accomplishments, not finances.

You deserve this raise and your contributions and value as an employee prove it. Yes, rent has gone up and you want to pad your savings account, but those are not good reasons to ask for a raise.

Can an employer add duties without compensation?

Yes is the short answer.

Employers can change just about anything as it relates to the terms and conditions of your employment unless there is a well-defined contract in place or you are represented by a labor union.

Employers can change your rate of pay, title, duties, and more so long as those changes take place in the future. For example, employers can lower your rate of pay for the next pay period, but they cannot lower the rate of pay for services and duties already performed.

Employers are also required to act within federal laws when changing your terms of employment.

For example, they cannot give you extra duties because of your race, gender, national origin, religion, etc. Those are known as protected classes under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was born out of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

They must also provide a safe work environment, so if your additional duties represent a safety hazard, then your employer may be violating the law.

But in a free country, employers are allowed to change almost anything about your job and job description, just like you are allowed to go work somewhere else.

Are employers required to give cost of living raises?

No is the short answer here.

As inflation causes the cost of living expenses to rise, employers will often give cost of living raises to offset the inflation rate. But there is no law requiring it.

Everyday purchases like clothing, the cost of living expenses, gas, etc. all increase in price over time. If employers don’t offset this with a cost of living raise, they are not maintaining a competitive edge as an employer.

Cost of living raises help keep employee wages reasonable compared to living expenses. They also help keep employees happy and can be a bullet point in the benefits of a job description put out by employers.

Typically, the cost of living raise is a small percentage that is given to every employee at the same time on an annual basis and is not an arbitrary amount. Cost of living raises because they are intended to offset inflation, are based on the Consumer Price Index.

While a nice perk, cost of living raises are NOT required by law.

However, if you are a government employee or represented by a labor union, it could part of your contract negotiations.

Why would an employer fire you if you ask for a raise?

If you are asking for a raise, you should make sure that you deserve a raise before you ask for it.

Ask yourself these questions and always remember, raises should be earned. You aren’t entitled to one automatically.

  • Have you proven that you are a valuable employee?
  • Do you have a good attitude and complete tasks on time or before the deadline?
  • Do you come to work every day and on time?
  • Are you producing excellent work?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you’re good to go. Even if you get denied at that moment, it’s not likely that you’ll get fired.

If you do get denied, ask for feedback and actionable steps so that you can improve. Then act on the feedback given. However, if you are not a valuable employee, it will be evident.

Frankly, you know if you are not a good employee. If you are asking for a raise, and any of these situations apply to you, you probably deserve to get fired.

Most importantly, if you get denied for a raise, don’t get hostile or give your manager an ultimatum (e.g. “Give me a raise or I’ll quit!”).

This kind of behavior is unacceptable and likely to get you fired.

The bottom line is that employers want to get their money’s worth out of their employees. As employees, we want to feel valued and that we matter to our employers, but it’s a two-way street.

If you are not giving it your all and then ask for a raise, it may just make your employer resent you. That could, in turn, lead to them firing you.

Make sure to avoid some of the worst employee attributes:

  • Gossiping about other employees
  • Frequent mistakes
  • Bad customer service
  • Excessive tardies and/or absences
  • A bad attitude

Those are all reasons to get fired not only when asking for a raise, but as an employee overall.

In a recent article, I get into exactly how you could be fired for calling in sick. But in another recent article, I also cover how something as simple as gossiping could get you fired.

Just click those links to read them on my site.

Additionally, if you ask for a raise, and you’ve been making a lot of mistakes or otherwise performing subpar work, a request for a raise is not likely to go over well and can show poor judgment on your part

Final Thoughts

Asking for a pay raise is a normal part of being an employee.

While many employers will focus a pay raise around an annual review, not all companies perform annual reviews. So if you are confident in your skills, have a good attitude and work ethic, you are in a good position to ask for a raise.

Just remember that a request for a pay raise is just that – a request.

Don’t approach your boss as if you are entitled to a raise. Make sure your timing is right and have a solid plan in place when you ask for your raise. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if you get denied. There could be circumstances that you are not aware of going on in the background, such as company restructuring or budget issues.

Ask for feedback, and implement it. That way, the next time you ask for a raise, your boss will be remiss to deny you!

In today’s economy, it’s not uncommon for some employees to have a 2nd job.

But did you know that sometimes employers can fire you for that too? It’s true. While you may not be in danger of that, it’s worth looking into.

In a recent article, I examine exactly that and what kinds of 2nd jobs an employer might frown upon. But I also get into how a 2nd job can affect your job performance too.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell