Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

do i have to return the signing bonus in at-will job letter offer? California

Collapse
This topic is closed.
X
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • do i have to return the signing bonus in at-will job letter offer? California

    Hello, I signed an at-will offer letter that promised $5k of signing bonus on the condition that "should you leave XXXX, Inc. prior to 12 months, this advance payment shall be returned in full".

    I left the job after 2 months. I was on intl. visa from mexico. visa got expired and had to leave.

    questions
    1.do i have to return the bonus?
    2. Can the employer enforce an offer letter signed by both of us in a court of law?
    3. It was not my choice to leave. Got a letter from visa officer that I must leave the country or I will be arrested. does that work in my favor?

    our company was consumer goods packaging in northern california, a start up of less than 8 employees. No HR dept or anything.

  • #2
    1.) Unless there was qualifying language elsewhere that provides for an exception, very likely you do.

    2.) A court of law quite certainly can uphold an agreement signed by both of you since there is nothing unlawful about what you agreed to

    3.) Not really. It's just as likely to go down that if you knew your visa was about to expire, you shouldn't have signed an agreement requiring that you stay for 12 months.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

    Comment


    • #3
      You are not going to be able to get a really hard answer for this on an Internet website. Conditional wage payments do not have a lot of formal "law" in the way of statutory law, regulations, and court decisions associated with them. Meaning a whole lot of judicial discretion, meaning different judges/ALJ can and do come up with different answers. It is not so much that conditional wage payments are legal, or illegal. It is more like labor law is mostly silent on the subject. These things started becoming common in recent memory. But the employers just started doing them. It is not like any actual laws (federal laws anyhow) supporting these actions were taken. More like the employer saying if it is not formally illegal, then it must be legal. This is not a bad argument, but is not a perfect argument. I have worked for employers who had very similar agreements called both ways in court or administrative agreement. Real Wheel of Fortune stuff.

      Past that, if your employer knows what they are doing (always a question), they would instead of relying on the offer letter have a formal contract drawn up, which would much more likely be taken seriously if done correctly. And any contract law answer always starts with "take all documents to a local attorney to read". Offer letters are (most of the time) not legally enforceable contracts. But saying most of the time they are not, is the same as saying that some of the time they are. Meaning you have to take the offer letter (plus all other documents) to a local contract law attorney who has to actually read all documents to come up with a answer that actually means something.

      The key problem is that offer letters were never legally intended to be contracts. Actual contracts drafted by attorneys following the actual laws of the state in question are intended to be contracts. IMO, someone wants a legally enforceable contract, pay an attorney to write one for you, and do not assume that random words on a page are somehow legally enforceable.

      Past that, unless I am missing something, if you have (or are going to) leave the country, that generally makes you judgment proof.
      "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
      Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

      Comment


      • #4
        Also consider that an expired visa is not usually that hard to resolve. Amazing things can happen when you work with the folks in the Consulate office.
        I don't believe what I write, and neither should you. Information furnished to you is for debate purposes only, be sure to verify with your own research.
        Keep in mind that the information provided may not be worth any more than either a politician's promise or what you paid for it (nothing).
        I also may not have been either sane or sober when I wrote it down.
        Don't worry, be happy.

        http://www.rcfp.org/taping/index.html is a good resource!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by DAW View Post
          You are not going to be able to get a really hard answer for this on an Internet website. Conditional wage payments do not have a lot of formal "law" in the way of statutory law, regulations, and court decisions associated with them. Meaning a whole lot of judicial discretion, meaning different judges/ALJ can and do come up with different answers. It is not so much that conditional wage payments are legal, or illegal. It is more like labor law is mostly silent on the subject. These things started becoming common in recent memory. But the employers just started doing them. It is not like any actual laws (federal laws anyhow) supporting these actions were taken. More like the employer saying if it is not formally illegal, then it must be legal. This is not a bad argument, but is not a perfect argument. I have worked for employers who had very similar agreements called both ways in court or administrative agreement. Real Wheel of Fortune stuff.

          Past that, if your employer knows what they are doing (always a question), they would instead of relying on the offer letter have a formal contract drawn up, which would much more likely be taken seriously if done correctly. And any contract law answer always starts with "take all documents to a local attorney to read". Offer letters are (most of the time) not legally enforceable contracts. But saying most of the time they are not, is the same as saying that some of the time they are. Meaning you have to take the offer letter (plus all other documents) to a local contract law attorney who has to actually read all documents to come up with a answer that actually means something.

          The key problem is that offer letters were never legally intended to be contracts. Actual contracts drafted by attorneys following the actual laws of the state in question are intended to be contracts. IMO, someone wants a legally enforceable contract, pay an attorney to write one for you, and do not assume that random words on a page are somehow legally enforceable.

          Past that, unless I am missing something, if you have (or are going to) leave the country, that generally makes you judgment proof.
          Thank you.

          Offer letter's exact wordings are as follow :" we will pay you an advance payment of your end-of-the-year bonus in the amount of $5,000. Should you leave XXX, Inc. prior to receiving your first year-end bonus, this advance payment shall be returned in full".

          Some technical things my naive eye noticed
          1. Letter has 2 pages. First page has the body of letter and 2nd page has nothing but "If you have any questions, contact us at.....Yours truly____________"

          Signatures of both parties are on 2nd page, nothing on first page. And pages are not numbered (1 of 2, 2 of 2 etc.)

          2ndly, it says "shall be returned" not "must be returned". Does that mean anything or am I just being silly here?

          finally, it is simply an offer letter. I have not signed any contract agreement of any kind whatsoever. And now the employer is threatening with legal action. What are the next steps in an event that employer does pursue legal action?
          Plus, if i am asked to appear in court, how the hell am I going to America if I dont even have a visa

          thank you for reply again.

          Comment


          • #6
            Your next step is to take this to a local contract law attorney (which I am not). Someone who is expert in CA contract law (which I am not). Who will have to read all documents, not just certain phrases. This is a labor law website, not a contract law website. My expertise is in labor law, not contract law.

            You are right on your comment. This is just an offer letter, not a signed contract. Meaning that someone who actually knows CA contract law, and CA labor law on contracts (not legally the same thing) needs to review the documents and find out exactly which of the many conflicting CA rules are in play. If you want you can download the CA-DLSE manual and read the section on contract law. But that by itself will be greatly inadequate to give you a good answer.
            http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Manual-Instructions.htm
            "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
            Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

            Comment


            • #7
              In your original thread you said that you and your employer had both signed an agreement that included your repaying the bonus if you did not stay for 12 months. Now you are saying that you did not sign. It's very hard to give appropriate answers when the facts keep changing.

              I absolutely agree with DAW that you need to have this reviewed by a California contracts attorney. But I am still of the opinion that if you both signed an agreement to the effect that you would have to repay it, there is a very strong likelihood that you can be held to it.
              The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by cbg View Post
                In your original thread you said that you and your employer had both signed an agreement that included your repaying the bonus if you did not stay for 12 months. Now you are saying that you did not sign. It's very hard to give appropriate answers when the facts keep changing.

                I absolutely agree with DAW that you need to have this reviewed by a California contracts attorney. But I am still of the opinion that if you both signed an agreement to the effect that you would have to repay it, there is a very strong likelihood that you can be held to it.
                apologies if i wrote "agreement" or contract. When employer made the offer, they sent a job offer letter which I had to sign and give it back.

                now employer is using that offer letter as a contract. It is a loosely written job letter that says my title, salary, date of start, that i have to return the 5k if i leave within a year.

                letter has nothing, absolutely nothing on it that even looks remotely legal.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have very little patience for people who sign any form of document and then later try to wiggle out of what they agreed to. If you weren't prepared to repay the bonus you shouldn't have signed.

                  One more time; you will have to show it to a California attorney to determine if it is enforceable. There is at least a reasonable chance that it is. Offer letters are, I agree, rarely enforceable and in many cases you do not want them to be because if they were, you could never get a raise or an increase in benefits. Also they are often too loosely written to be enforceable since they do not reflect a specific time period.

                  But that is not the case with the clause you have referenced, which does specify a specific term of employment. According to at least one attorney I have consulted with in the past (and she IS in California) that alone may make the repayment agreement enforceable even if the rest of the document is not.
                  The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cbg View Post
                    In your original thread you said that you and your employer had both signed an agreement that included your repaying the bonus if you did not stay for 12 months. Now you are saying that you did not sign. It's very hard to give appropriate answers when the facts keep changing.
                    In the OP's defense, they did say in original post they signed an offer letter re bonus - nothing about a contract/agreement. In OP's later posts, they said again they signed an offer letter re bonus but did not sign an agreement or contract.

                    The offer letter may or may not be enforceable - need to take it to an attorney as
                    told. (may or may not rise to the level of a binding contract)
                    Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                    Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      "Accepting a signing bonus forms a legal commitment by the job candidate to work for the employer. However, the job is still employment-at-will and the employee can resign one minute after beginning work. Even if the job candidate terminates the relationship before starting the job, the employer may not be able to obtain a refund of the bonus.

                      Because most employment offers and acceptances are for unspecified periods of time, the creation of an enforceable employment contract based on an offer and acceptance is highly unlikely. While there may be a moral commitment to follow through with the employment relationship, especially in the case of a signing bonus, the employer and job candidate must rely on their ethical commitments to each other for the agreement to have any viability."

                      read the above on some website, wondering if that applies to my case.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Again, you will need a contract attorney to read your offer letter & get his/her
                        opinion as to how the courts in your area would handle the offer letter.
                        Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                        Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I just went through the thread and counted. Six times you have been told that you would need to take your offer letter and any other employment documents to an attorney for review.

                          read the above on some website, wondering if that applies to my case.

                          Unless you were signed into your email online, and the email was from your contract lawyer, no, it's doesn't apply. You are not going to find your answer on any website. There are generally as many answers to this question as there are offer letters with repayment clauses in this country.

                          Let's consider this from another angle. Let's consider that you decide you are out of the country and "judgment-proof" as DAW put it. Let's also consider that in another 5 years, you apply for another visa and come back to this country to find a job or a spouse or a new place to live, or whatever. Let's say that this employer of yours got a judgment against you for the signing bonus, and you couldn't be served notice of an appearance in court or possibly even start a payment plan - all because you were in another country and "judgment-proof." What happens when the State Dept looks up your record and sees all of these outstanding court actions? Are they going to issue another visa to someone who had to be reminded of an expiration date? What if you do get a visa, and a future employer does a background search and finds all of these court actions? What happens if an employer in your current country wants references from this old employer?

                          It looks extraordinarily bad that you didn't plan for the pending expiration. Did your employer not notice the expiration date on your work authorization documents when you completed your Form I-9? Or did you tell them it would be renewed, and it didn't get renewed? Just curious how that conversation went.

                          Good luck to you.

                          Comment

                          Working...
                          X