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Can your employer lower your pay to match your new cost of living if you move in the pandemic?

You may want to be careful before heading out of town to work remotely.

WASHINGTON — The pandemic has changed a lot about our lives, but some consider working from home one of the bright spots in the pandemic

Locals can go anywhere while they work — some have even moved away to be closer to family or ditch their pricey rents.

However, there may be another change to consider if you do decide to move to a destination with a lower cost of living: your pay. 

WUSA9 reached out to Katie Lipp, Owner of The Lipp Law Firm, to learn more about what you need to know.

QUESTION: Can your employer lower your pay to match your new cost of living?

ANSWER: “Yes, absolutely,” Lipp shared. “An employer always has the ability to adjust your salary, whether that's upward, and unfortunately, whether that is down. Cost of living and your geographic location has always been a factor in how much an employer will pay you.”

QUESTION: Of course, it’s an interesting hypothetical. But how would your employer even know that you’ve moved if all of your work is virtual?

ANSWER: According to Lipp, it’s certainly possible your employer would find out.

“First and foremost is within your HR file. In most workplaces, you need to affirmatively let your employer know when you've had a change in residence,” she explained.

Your social media can also be a sign. ”Depending on your privacy settings, or if you're Facebook friends with your boss, that could certainly come into play.”

She also adds that the piece of equipment you use to work everyday could give you away. “If you have a work laptop, there's no right to privacy on business equipment. So the employer can track where you're at — your IP address,” she said. 

QUESTION: How long would you have to be away for it to count as a move?

ANSWER: If you're only looking to get away for a few weeks or months, you should be in the clear. However, if it's more than half of a calendar year, that's when it could start to count as an official move. 

"The place where you draw the line is you look at the majority — how many months out of the year," Lipp explained. "Where do they consider their permanent residence, based on where they're living most?"

QUESTION: How likely is it that you’ll get a smaller paycheck if your boss sees you’ve headed out of town for an extended period of time?

ANSWER: “The likelihood of that happening will lessen the higher up you get in the so to speak food chain,” Lipp shared. “If you are a highly specialized executive, the likelihood of your pay being adjusted downward based on your location change will go down. And if you're a lower-skilled worker, I think that you will have a higher likelihood that you will receive maybe some type of consideration for the geographic change coming into your pay.”

Lipp also adds that this wouldn’t apply if you have a contractual agreement that states your pay or you are a member of a worker’s union, but she said that doesn’t apply to the majority of workers.


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