What to do if my employer failed to payme an agreed bonus?

My employer and I agreed that if a certain number of tasks were done and the company made X amount of dollars that a 1% bonus would be granted. This 1% amounts to about $1700. The tasks were complete, the company made the quota, the 1% was never paid. My employer says this is because we do not have the money, but I have seen the funds and to me it appears as though we have a surplus. When I bring this up to them I am told that I am lucky to have a job at all, which makes me feel that my job is being threatened.

Asked on March 30, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) An agreement is an agreement. If the agreement's terms were met, you are owed your bonus.

2) As a practical matter, if the company literally has NO money to pay, you can't get it--though if the company was a sole proprietorship, the owner personally is liable to pay you. But simply being low on cash or not wanting to pay is no defense; if they can physically pay you, they have to do so legally.

3) Note that a company could choose to fire you if you bother management, unless you have an employment contract to the contrary; however, they would still have to pay your bonus and depending on the circumstances, you *may* have a claim then for improper termination.

4) Unfortunately, if the company won't pay voluntarily, if you want to be paid, you may need to sue them, the cost of which (and consequences of which) may make it not worthwhile to do so. You could contact the state labor department to see if they will help out, but I don't believe this is the type of situation they get involved in.


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