Does my bonus have to paid out if I’m resigning before the March payout?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Does my bonus have to paid out if I’m resigning before the March payout?

I have in writing an offer letter
stating ‘Guaranteed 25,000 bonus for
2018, payable March 2019′. I just
submitted my resignation on Jan 7, 2019.
Is the company still obligated to pay
out my bonus? The offer doesn’t state
that I have to be employed with Cthe
company through March 2019.

Asked on January 10, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It most likely has to be paid to you, but the absence of clear written terms means that the employer has room to try to argue that it should not. When there are no clear written terms, the court (if one side or the other sues, such as if you sued to get the money) will try to figure out what the parties most likely and reasonably intended. If you had a guaranteed bonuus for 2018, then the most likely reading or interpretation is that you earned the bonus by staying through Dec. 31, 2018 and therefore you are entitled to it, even if you leave prior to it being paid.
But if there are emails or any other messages or policy statements from the employer showing that the intent is that you have to be there when the bonus is paid to receive it, or they can show that in the past, people who left prior to payment did not get their bonus (showing that the company policy is that you have to be there at time of payment to get the bonus), they may be able to successfully argue you are not entitled to it, since those facts would be used to establish what the policy and intention was. 

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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