Can an employer make you pay back salary that you earned while in a training program?

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Can an employer make you pay back salary that you earned while in a training program?

I signed a contract to pay back the employer I work for now if I left before 3 years. I am leaving after a few months due to receiving a better job offer. The contract stated that I must pay back $9,000 in “training costs” if I left early. However, when I asked for a breakdown of said costs, almost half was filed under the category of my salary I received while in the training academy. Can they legally force me to pay back the salary I earned during this time? The breakdown of the charges was given to me until after I let them know I would be leaving.

Asked on June 30, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There is no general answer to this question. What matter is what the contract says--it's terms will be enforced if they are clear, or interpreted by the courts, in light of the probable intention of the parties (at the time they signed) if not clear. If the contract specifies that you will repay a sum certain--that is, it states that you will repay $9,000 in "training costs"--then it is likely that court would conclude you have to repay $9,000 (since that number is stated explicitly in the contract) as long as the are $9,000 of expenses which can be attributed or traced to training--including your salary while at the training academy.  A court would most likely conclude that since you signed a contract saying you'd repay $9,000, you have to repay that amount. However, for a more definitive answer, let a lawyer review the contract and its specific language with you.


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