Can my employer force me to pay for a flight that had to be canceled when I resigned?

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Can my employer force me to pay for a flight that had to be canceled when I resigned?

I had a trip booked at work but due to personal reasons had to resign from my
job. The employer had 5 weeks notice to cancel this trip but apparently the
travel department booked it as non-refundable. Can they charge me for this
flight?

Asked on December 21, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Since your voluntary action cost your company an unecessary expense, it was within its rights to charge you for this ticket. Also, it was not obliged to book you under a refundable ticket. The fact is that most employment is "at will" which means that a business can set the conditions of work much as it sees fit, and this includes what work related expenses to pass on to employees. Therefore, absent some form of legally actionable discrimination/retaliation or terms to the contrary in an employment contract/union agreement, your employer's action is legal. That having been said, even though you may owe this money, your company cannot deduct this amount from your paycheck without your written consent (although it could sue you for it).

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you have to pay for the flight: your voluntary action (resignation; even if you did for "personal reasons," legally, it was still your choice to do this) cost them money--the cost of the nonrefundable ticket. (They had no requirement to pay more to book it on a refundable basis.) Therefore, you are liable for the cost, as anyone is, when their voluntary action costs another person.


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