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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20354
Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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Hi, I was hired by a federal government contractor in September

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I was hired by a federal government contractor in September to work at a government location in clarendon, va. When I was hired I was told that the office might be relocating much farther away from where I live but if they did it would not be a problem as when they bid on the contract to be a sub the move was not mentioned.

Now it is almost December and I was told by the on-site program manager and the government that the move is occurring no later than 1 february 2011. I was also told that there are limited spots staying in this location and my position was not one of them.

I guess my main question is that when I was hired I was paid a bonus. Part of my contract stipulates that if I quit or am terminated within a year that I have to repay it.
Do I have to repay the bonus? Am I legally eligible for any kind of severance aside from unemployment insurance since my company told me I would not have to move?

P.S. I forgot to mention that today I was shown the contract which mentions providing support in the new location no later than february 2011. I have nothing in writing about the move from the company. they told me about it over the phone.

If you have an actual employment contract or a contract that related to the bonus and the terms of the contract are not equivocal about the requirement to pay back the bonus, then you will have to pay it back. Having said that, it is a little odd that the contract wouldn't say something to the effect that is you quit or are terminated for "cause" that you would have to pay it back. If there is no equivocation in that language, you can argue that this is not a termination but instead a lay off. It would certainly help if the employer has used the word lay off in relation to your leaving the company. That really is your only valid argument unless there is something in the contract that requires that your termination be for cause or misconduct.

As for severance. Neither Virginia nor Federal law mandate that employees receive severance payments when their employment is terminated. So, if the employer does offer it then it is at their own direction and not a legal duty. You will need to check with them to see if they have a policy about severance pay.

Your company really is under no duty to tell you that they are moving unless there is a mass layoff as defined under WARN, which is a Federal law that governs plant closings or mass layoffs. In that case, the employer is required only to give a 60 day notice.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your response. After reading my paperwork it very simply states all sign-on inventives must be paid back in full if employment is terminated by employee or if employee is terminated for cause after being with the company for less than one year.

Would my not agreeing to move be considered termination for cause or me terminating my employment? the contract states the location I will be working at currently.
Hello again,

That is good news for you. Based on the facts as you have relayed them, you are in no way being terminated for "cause." Therefore, you do not owe repayment to your employer of the bonus. They are moving and they have very clearly stated that your position is being cut, so this isn't remotely an issue of cause which would require some sort of intentional or grossly negligent failure on your part.
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