What is my obligation regarding the repayment of a sign-on bonus?
Question Details: I accepted an offer of employment that had a $10,000 sign-on bonus; there was an agreement to repay the gross amount, in percentage received, if terminated early. The agreement stated that I was to receive payment on the first pay period following my first day of employment. I can clearly demonstrate that I did not get paid until well over a month after starting. The agreement stated 2 payments of$ 5,000 with the second payment at my 6 month mark. The first check was a paper check and the amount was $5000 minus taxes. I returned the check to them and told them they could keep the check because as per my agreement, I was to get $5000. I told them that if they could not give me the amount stated on the agreement, that I would be seeking different employment. So, they agreed, and $5000 was deposited into my account. No further paperwork was given to me about this as I was under the impression that I would be responsible for taxes on my own. Yea, stupid me for assuming anything. So, I ended up terminating my employment due to unsafe conditions in the facility that I was working in and exposure to asbestos fiber (they only informed me after the fact that the boiler I was working on contained asbestos). I fully expected and intended on paying back the money received as per the agreement. I was then asked to repay an amount based on $7500. I said no way. They increased of inflated the bonus amount to $7500 in order to give me a net $5000. No new contract was made, nor was I aware that this is what they did. My paystub says $5000 relocation allowance, and a $2000 sign-on bonus. Those 2 figures totaled what I was asked to repay. Am I screwed and have to just pay whatever they ask? If so, what are the consequences of just refusing to repay.
You have to repay the amount set forth in the contract. If they choose to give you more, such as to give you a net $5,000 instead of a gross $5,000 (for future reference: a $5,000 bonus does normally mean the gross, pre-tax amount) that was their voluntary choice and they cannt require you to repay more than you contractually agreed to repay. That does not mean they might not try to sue you for the larger amount, but if they do, you should have a good defense based on what you write, based on the terms of the contract, since you are only obligated to repay what you agreed to repay.