Are Employment Offer Letters Binding like Contracts?

Question: I signed an employment offer letter that said that I would be eligible for a $1,000 raise after 4 months, provided I met certain goals. After 4 months, nothing was said. Three months later my boss offered me a bonus program that had nothing to do with the raise.

The employment offer letter also said I would repay the company for training if I left before a certain date. When a friend of mine left, she wasn’t required to repay the training monies, so I thought that I wouldn’t be required to do so, either.

Because I didn’t get the raise I was promised, I quit, before the certain date. My boss is now demanding I pay the company back for the training monies. Do I have to?

Courtney, Charlottesville, VA

Answer: As a general rule, an employment offer letter is binding; the employer and the employee both have to fulfill their obligations to the other that are set forth in the offer letter. Your boss was bound to give you a raise if you met the 4-month goals, and you were bound to repay the training monies if you left before the certain date.

The question seems to be this: Does your boss’s failure to pay you the raise justify, or excuse, your leaving early and not repaying the training monies? The answer is Probably Yes. I believe (but can’t guarantee) that most courts would deny your boss what he claims is owed him, if you quit because he didn’t pay you the promised raise. No employee is obligated to stay working when what they are supposed to be paid is not paid to them.

By the way, because your boss didn’t require your friend to repay the monies does not mean he had no right to require that you do; the law does not require that employers treat all employees exactly alike.

One question remains: did you achieve your 4-month goals? It seems your boss did not tell you. If you think you probably did achieve those goals, you’re on pretty solid ground. But, if the goal was 10 new sales, and you only achieved 4, you’ll probably be found in the wrong, and have to honor the training repayment monies.

Hope that’s good news. Thanks for writing in. Hope you’ll visit our blog often.

Best, Al Sklover

If you agreed to repay your former employer (a) tuition reimbursement, (b) relocation expenses, (c) a sign-on bonus, or even (d) a short-term loan, you may be able to have that obligation waived and forgiven. We offer a Model Letter for Repayment Obligation Forgiveness – with 18 Great Reasons, just [click here.] “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ – Delivered by Email – Instantly!