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Joseph
Joseph, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 5126
Experience:  Extensive experience representing employees and management
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Im in California and in the process of being laid off from

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I'm in California and in the process of being laid off from a salaried position. No cause is given and there have been no negative statements about my performance. When I took the job, I was promised an annual bonus of $15k and that "we hardly ever don't pay it". I would not have agreed to the job without that. I was expecting $7.5k at the midyear point because other coworkers had received midyear bonuses. Also, a coworker who was hired after me was told at six months that he would not receive his bonus because he did not merit it. So when I heard I was being laid off, I asked to be paid the part of the bonus that I had earned. (I just finished my 10th month, so this would be 12.5k, but I would have been happy with just the midyear.) This has been refused. The guy I'm negotiating with told me he could find no record of midyear payments. I know for a fact that they happened.

Contradicting this by citing my coworkers (the one who was paid, and the one who was refused) experience seems inadvisable and anyhow I don't want to rat on them. I can't find anything at all about the bonus in writing (all these decisions, including this latest one, are being made over the phone and on short notice). But why would he insist that midyear payments don't happen, if doing so doesn't create an obligation of some kind?

I've been (verbally) offered $4k (about 2 week's pay) as severance, and am threatened with withdrawal of this offer when I negotiate.

What can I do here to negotiate the best deal for myself?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

I need a bit more information from you before I can provide you with a complete and thorough answer to your question.

Just to clarify, can you tell me if you had an employment contract with your employer or are you an at-will employee?

Was the promise of the bonus also made orally, or did you receive that in writing of some kind?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I am an at-will employee.


The promise was made orally, there may be a hard copy somewhere.


 


They're not contesting that the promise of a bonus was made, they're contesting that they're obliged to pay it. Their given reason for not paying is because it is an annual bonus and I will not have been there the whole year.


 


My POV is that I took the job with the understanding this money was coming and have earned it. Maybe not the whole year's worth, but for as long as I've been there. At the very minimum, I should have gotten the first half at six months and I didn't. I was asked to fill out a midyear self-evaluation, which I assumed would result in a bonus.


 


If it matters, the business model is that I work for a client who pays my employer by the hour.

Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Hello Amy,

Unfortunately, since the bonus was just a promise and not a contractual guarantee, your employer is under no obligation to give you any amount as a bonus, whether pro-rated or the mid-year bonus that they deny they gave to other employees.

As an at-will employee, you can be terminated at any time for any reason with or without any prior notice. And, unless you believe that you were discriminated against due to a protected characteristic, it would probably be in your best interest to accept the severance offered, since your employer has no obligation to give you a severance package.

I realize that you were hired based on the expectation of the bonus, but your employer didn't make this contractual and didn't obligated itself to pay anything out before the year end, even if they did make mid year bonus payments to other employees.

I realize the above information is not what you wanted to hear and I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX had better news to give you, but I hope you appreciate an honest and direct answer to your question. It would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.

Thanks and best of luck!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

No, it's okay. I figured the answer would be something like that. But it never hurts to ask.

Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Amy,

If you don't have any follow up or clarifying questions, please remember to rate my answer positively so I get credit for my work!

Thanks and best of luck!
Joseph, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 5126
Experience: Extensive experience representing employees and management
Joseph and 2 other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you

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