Can an employer make you sign a document?

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Can an employer make you sign a document?

I moved to another state for a job with low pay. Now that I’m settled in and have completed 2 classes for construction training (they cost about $3,000), my employer is requesting that I sign a document saying that I will work for them for 4 years or pay them $4,000. Is this legal and or enforceable if I do sign?

Asked on February 17, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You can be terminated for not signing this agreement, or for any reason, or for no reason at all. The fact is that most work relationships are "at will", which means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit. Accordingly, absent some form of legally actionable discrimination or the violation of the terms of an employment contract/union agreement, you have no claim. That having been said, unless you sign, you cannot be held liable for reimbursing your employer for the cost of the classes as you were not informed that you would be held responsible for their payment prior to taking them. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is legal to ask you sign this as a condition of continuing to be employed; since employment is "employment at will" (unless you already have a written employment contract guarantying your employment), your employer may terminate you at any time, for any reason--such as after you moved, and if you do not sign this agreement. If you don't sign, you can be terminated--that is the employer's leverage to make you sign. You could refuse to sign and take the chance on being fired--that is your choice.


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