Do I have a case for a bait and switch case regarding a relocation package?

I left a private sector job in Colorado to take a position with the federal government in Virginia. I was offered a ‘Recruitment and Relocation Incentive Service Agreement’ with a specific dollar amount to help with the moving cost. I have started the position, and now they are saying I cannot receive payment until I have proof of a lease or purchase of a home in Virginia as per their Standard Operating Procedures SOPS. The document I signed makes references to documents about authorization of incentives, and how to calculate amounts. In the document I signed it clearly states ‘The incentive will be paid in one lump sum at the beginning of the service period specified in item 1, and is not considered for basic pay for computing retirement entitlement, insurance entitlement, or other benefits related to basic pay.’
Item one clearly states my effective date is 22 August 2016.

Do I have the grounds for a case against my employer for failure to pay as per our signed agreement if they fail to pay in a reasonable amount of time? There is no reference about this SOP they have, or restrictions on when it can be paid.

Asked on September 1, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Why not provide them the documentation they are seeking, if you did lease or buy a home? Even if you are understandably upset about them requiring something not in the documentation you signed, it would be faster, cheaper, easier, and less contentious to comply than to fight.
If you can't comply--e.g. you are living there with a family, friend, or significant other, and so don't have a lease and have not purchased a home--try initially providing proof of that: e.g. notarized affidavits or letters from you and the person you are living with as to your living arrangement, postal change of address, etc. Similarly, if you are currently living a motel/hotel pending finding some permanent location, provide evidence of that. This may satisfy them, and if satisfied, that will again be faster, cheaper, etc. than suing.
Only sue if, even after you provide documentation of your living arrangement, they still don't pay. If you do so, if as you write, you can show that the agreement you signed makes no reference to this requirement, you should have a good case (but not guaranteed--no case is ever guaranteed to win) to enforce the agreement as written and force them to pay when it says they should.
Note however that if you did not in fact relocate--e.g. you are commuting back and forth but maintain your primary address hwere you used to live--then you might not be eligible for relocation assistance with the moving cost, since you did not move; they may be able to avoid paying in that situation, since you have not done what you were supposed to do or what the payment is supposed to help with.


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