Can an employee be fired for asking for a raise?

September 10, 2015
Can an employee be fired for asking for a raise?

As an employer you're able to make the decision to fire an employee at will for just about anything beyond the realm of protected characteristics (i.e., being over 40, belonging to a certain religion, race, etc.)

But it's a bad practice

Although there's no law against it, firing employees simply for asking for a raise isn't a good business practice. You want to keep employees who put their best efforts into their job, and are willing to go the extra mile. As an employer you want to incentivize high-quality work performance, and part of that may involve being willing to negotiate a raise for employees who are truly working above and beyond their current pay-grade.


Explain to your employee why you will or won't give them a raise. Is it that the bottom line simply won't allow it, or do you think that their work performance isn't going above and beyond their current wage? Whatever the case, your employee should appreciate your honesty, and having a better understanding of what it may take to earn a raise can act as a motivator.

Possible exceptions

The following responses to being denied a raise can be proper grounds for termination:

  • The employee becomes angry or makes threats
  • The employee's quality of work performance diminishes
  • The employee becomes a counterproductive influence in the workplace.

Final tip

Although possibly permissible, firing an employee for asking for a raise isn't a good idea unless their approach to asking or reaction to your response is unprofessional, or otherwise demonstrates poor employee conduct.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

This post may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such web sites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

ESAC Accreditation
We comply with all ESAC standards and maintain ESAC accreditation since 1995.
Certified PEO
A TriNet subsidiary is classified as a Certified Professional Employer Organization by the IRS.