How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask socrateaser Your Own Question

socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 33378
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
Type Your California Employment Law Question Here...
socrateaser is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I recently resigned. Three years ago the company converted their bonus program to a "

Resolved Question:

I recently resigned. Three years ago the company converted their bonus program to a "retention award." The reward was paid out in cash upfront (as in the past) however, it was earned over the next 36 months. They required a contract be signed each year prior to paying the bonus. So when I resigned, I basically owed one-third of my 2009 bonus, two-thirds of my 2010 bonus and nearly my entire 2011 bonus. I have just received my "bill" in the mail. Are there any laws that protect me as a California employee to avoid payment? Any experience with how aggressive companies are with chasing the money? It's not six figures but a meaningful amount to me. Thank you.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 2 years ago.
“It shall be unlawful for any employer to collect or receive from an employee any part of wages theretofore paid by said employer to said employee.” Labor Code § 221. Wages are defined broadly to include “all amounts for labor performed ... ” This definition makes it clear that the statute prevents an employer from taking back wages earned and paid (as opposed to overpayments of wages not earned). See Harris v. Investor's Business Daily, Inc. (2006) 138 CA4th 28, 40.

However, there is no prohibition against an employer recovering advances (payments not yet earned by the employee's full performance of the contract). Steinhebel v. Los Angeles Times Communications (2005) 126 CA4th 696, 705.

Based upon your stated facts, you could be on the hook for the advances against the retention bonus. The way out may be to prove that the contract is a restrictive covenant not to compete, in violation of Bus. & Prof. Code 16600, on the theory that if the employer can't prohibit an employee from competing after termination by any direct means, it may be able to do so, by making the cost of quiting employment so great that the employee cannot reasonably do so -- or, by creating an effective damage award against the employee created such that the employer can recover for the employee's resignation, and ultimate competition with the employer.

There's no case law on this issue -- I'm trying to give you a legal argument that you could use as a defense to a lawsuit.

Re the odds of being sued -- it's all about the employer. There's no way for me to analyze the risk, especially as your particular employment relationship is atypical/rare.

Hope this helps.

NOTICE: My goal here is to educate others about the law. I am always available to answer your follow-up questions after you click Accept – however, if you do not click Accept, the website gets paid, and I receive nothing. This is true, even if you are on a subscription plan. So please click Accept, so that I will be able to continue to provide this service for others in the future.


And, if you need to contact me again, please put my user id on the title line of your question (“To Socrateaser”), and the system will send me an alert. Thanks!


socrateaser, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 33378
Experience: Retired (mostly)
socrateaser and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • LawTalk

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    912
    I have 30 years of experience in the practice of law, including employment law and discrimination law.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/LA/LawTalk/2012-6-6_17379_LawTalk.64x64.JPG LawTalk's Avatar

    LawTalk

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    912
    I have 30 years of experience in the practice of law, including employment law and discrimination law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MU/multistatelaw/2011-11-27_173951_Tinaglamourshotworkglow102011.64x64.jpg Tina's Avatar

    Tina

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    827
    JD, 16 years experience & recognized by ABA for excellence in employment law.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PI/PIExpert/2012-7-1_152453_Attorney.64x64.jpg Brandon, Esq.'s Avatar

    Brandon, Esq.

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    320
    Has received a certificate of recognition from the California State Senate for his outstanding legal service.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PH/phoenixrising119/2012-7-26_11214_043.64x64.jpg melissamesq's Avatar

    melissamesq

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    47
    Represent clients to maximum recovery in employment cases.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/IG/Iggy1001/2013-11-20_23344_JApic.64x64.jpg Joseph's Avatar

    Joseph

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    3098
    Extensive experience representing employees and management
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/JK/jkiani22/2013-11-18_15348_JacobKiani1copy2.64x64.jpg jkiani22's Avatar

    jkiani22

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    20
    Attorney
  • /img/opt/shirt.png Legal Counsel's Avatar

    Legal Counsel

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    32
    California Licensed Attorney- 29 years- Wages, Hours, Overtime, Discrimination, Wrongful Termination.