Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Salary Definition:

Regular payment for services.

Related Terms: Wages, Bonus

Frequently used synonymously with wages although there is an old case (1912) that suggests a distinction: that wages has a less extensive scope and refers to sums paid to servants, mechanics and other such manual, blue collar laborers; whereas salary has reference to white collar workers, clerks and bookkeepers etc.1

In Madsen, Justice Beaubier of the Tax Court of Canada, accepted and adopted these words to define salary: fixed regular payment made by an employer to an employee in return for work.

Or in the 1936 case, Flannery Bolt v Flannery, in which these words of Justice Davis of the US Circuit Court of Appeals can be found: "The word salary means the recompense or consideration paid, to a person at regular intervals for services."

In US v Grant, the issue was what the liability of the employer was, which came down to the scope of the word salary in the employment contract of a public office holder. Justice Schnackenberg of the United States Court of Appeals wrote:

"The word salary may be defined generally as a fixed annual or periodical payment for services, depending upon the time, and not upon the amount, of services rendered. It is a compensation which cannot be diminished during the continuance of the incumbent in office, and of which he cannot be deprived except by death, resignation, or impeachment."

Typically, although subject to judicial determination otherwise given the right set of facts, a salary does not include other financial benefits often given to an employee such as pension, disability benefits, commission or fees.


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