Yes, an employer can lower your salary. However, the employer must still comply with the law by paying for all hours worked, pay you for any overtime worked, and pay you above the California minimum wage.
What is your job position and duties? There may be a question of whether you qualify as an "exempt" employee who can be salaried, as opposed to "non-exempt" and paid hourly.
The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
I have a somewhat different view of this than Mr. Chen, but perhaps he and I are interpreting the facts differently.
An employer can change your rate of pay at any time for FUTURE work, not past work. If there was no communication, oral or written, regarding a change in pay, your employer should pay you the same as before. You have the right to decide whether you will work for the new pay rate or not; it cannot be sprung upon you. If it comes to it, your employer will have to prove it provided advance notice of the pay change.
Wage and hour laws are enforced either in court or by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/ There is no cost to using DLSE services.
Please look at my Avvo guide on California's at-will employment law, which should help you understand your rights in this situation, as well as in the future. http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/a-short-summary-of-california-at-will-employment .
Employment law is complicated and fact specific. You may wish to speak with an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney. To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.cela.org, and you can search for attorneys by location and practice area.
I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
An employer can change your salary for at-will employment, but only before the work is incurred for that lower salary.
This is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.