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I was hired recently and paid a sign on bonus to relocate for

a role in dallas....
I was hired recently and paid a sign on bonus to relocate for a role in dallas. I ended my lease, packed and had secured housing in dallas. Two weeks prior to my move, the company told me to "hold off" on my move. I had to re secure housing in NYC immediately as my apartment was already rented. I worked remotely for 2 months and then out of the blue was fired. The reasons in the termination letter are all bogus and now they are demanding my sign on bonus be returned. They put in a terrible situation and I feel this is wrongful.
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7/1/2013
Marsha411JD
Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20,417
Experience: Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
Verified
Hello,

Thank you for the information, however, I don't see where you have asked a legal question. Can you tell me what that is? Also, I need to make sure that you understood that when you agreed to the TOS you knew that the Experts on this Site cannot provide you with legal advice or a legal opinion. That is because we cannot form an attorney-client relationship.

We can discuss the law as it relates to your issue, and options, but no advice or opinions.

If you understand that and want to continue, then I will also need to know if you signed an actual employment contract and if so if after reading it you believe they have violated it. Also, what reasons does the sign on bonus say that the money must be repaid? Finally, what State law does the contract say governs controversies?
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thanks for the reply. I do understand the TOS and honestly just want options and will perhaps meet with a local manhattan attorney. There was an offer letter signed and I agreed to relocate as I stated prior. The sign on bonus does state forgiven after two years but nothing about if they fire me out of the blue and the reasons they state in the termination letter are mostly incorrect. It does not say what State governs controversies. What I think is very odd is they used the office address in Dallas, TX as my home address. They did not want to deal with NY state laws dealing with an employee as they had assumed I would be relocating within 45 days of my start date.

Hello again Brad and thank you for the additional information. Since you apparently had an offer letter and not a term contract, the employer, under both NY and Texas law could let you go for any, or no, reason and with no notice or warning unless doing so would violate their company policies or your offer letter or was motivated because you are a member of a protected class under employment discrimination laws. That is because both States are employment "at will" states.

That said, the issue here really is the sign on bonus recoupment issue. If the agreement said that the sign on bonus would be repayable under any circumstances if your employment ended prior to two years, then technically they could demand repayment. However, you might be able to successfully argue detrimental reliance under an implied contract theory for your actions in quitting your previous job and ending your lease and thereby offset the demand for the bonus repayment. Unfortunately neither NY nor Texas have an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in employment agreements, so that won't help you.

Ultimately, I think that a court in NY would take jurisdiction over this issue since that is where you were when you entered into the agreement and where you worked from. So, I would encourage you to take all of the paperwork that you have to a local employment law attorney and have them look over it. They might suggest that they write a letter to the employer and try to negotiate this bonus repayment away, using some argument related to what I mentioned.

It really isn't ethical what they did, but the legal argument is not as strong on your behalf. But you still should explore it.

Please let me know if you have any specific follow up questions. I would be glad to assist you further if I can.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thank you for the response, it was very helpful and I have already engaged a local employment attorney to draft such a letter.


 


One final question for you, if I just go silent, not return any calls or correspondence, might this just taper off naturally? They don't have a local presence and it's a medical device company, they typically don't want any negative press as an industry. They continue to ask for my signed resignation letter which I refuse to sign based on the inaccurate reasons for termination. I have returned all company property and they owe me a balance for final two weeks salary plus unused vacation. My preference is to just go silent versus involve legal, my understanding is that sign on bonuses or relocation bonuses are rarely forced to be paid back. Thoughts?

You're welcome. If you do nothing here, there are a couple of negative results that could occur. They deduct your sign on bonus from your wages, which they may do anyway, or they turn the "debt" over to collections and it goes downhill from there. Those are the worst case scenarios. I can't say what this company will do, but I am not sure I would just completely ignore their demands. I agree that you shouldn't sign a resignation letter since they are letting you go, but not sure I would ignore demands for money.
Marsha411JD
Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20,417
Experience: Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20,417
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