Can I company require and sue for repayment of training?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I company require and sue for repayment of training?

I signed a contract with my employer for training that states we would pay $5000 at a prorated amount if I left within a 24 month time period. Another job has offered me a position, better pay and doing the job I was trained for, and when I gave my two weeks notice the contract was brought up stating that I owe around $3400. I have looked up training costs and find the class and test is around $1000. Plus, the training I received for a crane operator I have rarely used at my job for the 7/8 months as they have a high turnover rate due to bad management in our yard so don’t have the people to have another crane crew which I would operate, that they stated I would be operating. My current employer also stated I needed to repay this amount before I leave the job, within 2 weeks, or they will hire a lawyer and I will have to pay those fees as well. Is this all legal? Is this a penalty for bettering my family’s life?

Asked on December 15, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It is legal and it is not a penalty for bettering your family's life: it is a contract you entered into, the same as a lease for a car or a home, a contract for furnace service and oil delivery, an agreement hiring a contractor to expand your house, or any other contract. Even if circumstances change so that you no longer need or want what you contracted for (e.g. a family member gives you a car, so you don't need the leased vehicle; you relocate for work, so you don't need the leased house or apartment; you find a cheaper oil provider; you lose a job and can't afford the home expansion) you are still bound to what you agreed to. You agred to pay $5,000 on  pro rated basis if you depart before 24 months are done; you did not need to sign that agreement (e.g. you could have quit and sought other employment if you did not want to have to sign a repayment agreement) but you did. Having signed the contract, you are held to it--including possibly paying legal fees if they sue you, if the contract says that they can get them in that case.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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