Can an employer fire you and expect back relocation expenses?

My spouse just moved to Colorado for her job. Her employer offered 5,000 in relocation expenses. According to the contract if she leaves her position for any reason she’s obligated to pay it back. Now she’s worried they’ll fire or lay her off in order to collect the 5,000 back. Is that possible?

Asked on April 25, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Generally, even with an agreement like this, the employer can only recover the relocation expenses if:
1) The employee voluntarily leaves employment (quits or resigns); or 
2) The employee is fired "for cause," such as violating policy or manager instructions, insubordination, damage employer property, theft, excessive absenteeism, etc. 
However, if the employee is let go not for cause, which includes for being a bad fit, personality conflict, her position is eliminated, performance issues, etc., she would not have to repay.


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