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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 18791
Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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My daughter was hired by Costco as a pharmacy tech in Burnsville,

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My daughter was hired by Costco as a pharmacy tech in Burnsville, MN. She has her PTSB certification and had 18 mos experience at the time from a Target pharmacy. She inquired at the time of hire if her wage was correct because it was quite below what the standard was listed at in the area and Costco has a reputation for paying better than average. She was basically given the run around and after a while gave up. She was recently promoted to full-time and inquired again as to her pay level. Her immediate manager is in agreement with her but the manager who decides this has been stalling in giving her an answer and then finally just said no. She is wondering what other course of action she has, as she knows she is grossly underpaid by at least $3 per hour. She is going to obtain an employee handbook today, but we were wondering what other course of action she has. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for using Just Answer. Between my law practice and other law related jobs, I have over 13 years experience. I look forward to assisting you.

The problem here is that pay is not a legally guaranteed amount in most cases. Without a contract specifically stating what your pay should be, an employer is permitted to legally pay different people at different rates, unless it can be shown that the employer is discriminating based on race, religion, gender, age, disability or FMA use.

This is not the sort of job that would be subject to any "prevailing rate" laws, so if they are paying her what they said they would be paying her, there really isn't anything to be done aside from alleging discrimination (if she can show other starting pharmacy techs that received a higher rate in close temporal proximity to her hire date).

This would be an entirely different situation if she had not already been aware of the seemingly low rate at the time of hire. If they had promised a higher rate and then, after she started, tried to explain that a mistake was made about the offered rate, we'd have some implied covenant concepts to work with here.

The facts you've given though just don't support that legal theory.
I would just add that she should be permitted access to the company handbook and if that were to actually contain salary guidelines, it would be an implied contractual obligation that she could use.

We're just speculating on that point though. If the document is not publicly available, it is not intended to be an implied contract, but rather, an internal guideline which is not binding on the company.

If you have any further questions, please ask them now. Otherwise, I'll ask that you be fair with me and accept an answer is accordance with the honor code you acknowledged when joining this site.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Okay, there are two other pharmacy techs making quite a bit more than her. One in her own department, who is making $18/hr and she has one year more experience than her. My daughter was hired at a little over $11/hr and is now making just over $12/hr. Recently another Costco in the Twin Cities area hired a new pharmacy tech with less experience than my daughter, at just under $16/hr. It is quite obvious she was plugged in at the wrong starting wage....but they are unwilling to correct their error.

This manager who determines wages states that her pharmacy manager at the time of hire should have determined her wage level, but he had no part of her hiring and was being hired at the same time (this was a brand new Costco) and was still in training for his position at the time of my daughter's hire and so he was not handling that part of his job at the time, somebody who was part of the mass hiring process was doing the determination. Her pharmacy manager is in agreement with her about her wages and is helping her put forth her queries, but the other manager seems determined to continue with the way things are.

If my daughter were to quit they would not rehire another new tech at the same wage with the same or less experience. Jesse, her pharmacist manager, has even stated that.
You're making a legal mistake. There is not a legally recognized "starting wage." That may be what the company typically offers, but that's not legally binding.

The other pharmacy techs at other stores don't count as comparators. They have different managers. The techs already in the store don't count. They were there already, hired at a different time from your daughter.

I'm not telling you that you're wrong here. They very likely did offer the wrong wage up front. My point here is that nothing you've stated is going to compel any legal entity to force Costco to increase her wage. The Department of Labor can't help and the courts can't help.

She is being paid what she was offered. She doesn't have a contract stating that she should be paid more. Her job doesn't fit under prevailing wage law. The people that are being paid more than her all are distinguishable, legally speaking, so they are not what the law considers true comparators for any discrimination argument. She doesn't have a legal right to an increase, just a moral/ethical right. I've been doing this a long time. If there were a way to legally force the increase, I would tell you. I have no vested interest in making her accept less money. I'm just respecting you enough to be honest about the LEGAL options here.

My point here is that her battle is going to have to be entirely internal within the company. This is a matter of company internal policy, not of law. She needs to look to open door policies, looking at going to district and the next level after that, if necessary.
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