Should a relocation delay result in termination and, specifically, return of a sign-on bonus?

I accepted a job offer in another state which also required my relocation and to do so within a short, predefined timeframe. The employer paid, up front, a sign-on bonus to join the firm not relocation related and the offer letter included a contingency ‘Should you voluntarily separate your employment or be terminated for cause within 12 months, you will be obligated to repay this amount

Asked on September 27, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You agreed to relocate within a predetermined or set period of time. Unless that agreement itself included the contingency that you could have more time if you were in  financial straits, had trouble finding or selling property, etc., then your personal living and financial issues are irrelevant: if you did not relocate in time, you violated your agreement. Your failure to relocate can be considered voluntary separation (you chose to not relocate to where you employer is--even if the cost would have been prohibitive to you, in the law's eyes, this is your decision because you could have accepted the costs or consequences and found someplace, no matter how small or mean, to live in temporarily near to your employer) and/or grounds for termination "for cause" (not being present at work) which would have the same effect for both unemployment eligibility (you cannot get unemployment benefits if you either voluntarily separate or are fired for cause) and on your obligation to return the bonus. So in answer to your question, yes, they can require the return of the bonus and deny you unemployment. Agreeing to relocate with a short time frame may have been a very bad choice for you, under the circumstances, but it it was still your choice: you are held to the consequences of it.


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