Does my employer need to pay me my promised bonus if it was via a verbal agreement?

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Does my employer need to pay me my promised bonus if it was via a verbal agreement?

I was hired 11 months ago and was told that a bonus of $50 would be split among my team (team of 2) at the time the customer completed the program. Now over 300 hundred customers have made it through the program. The amount owed is approximately $11,000 (my share would be half). The original agreement was written and had expired, though a verbal agreement was made by my boss to extend the bonus date to all accounts that ended prior to the end of this year. I want to quit the job at this point, will they have to pay the rest of the promised bonus? Do they have to pay within “a reasonable” time. There were witnesses to the verbal agreement.

Asked on June 7, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

An oral or verbal agreement IS enforceable, including one for a bonus or to extend bonus plan eligibility. The chief difficulty, usually, is proving both the existence of, and often more critically, the exact terms of the agreement.

As to specific questions you raise, such as whether the company must pay the balance of the bonus, or pay within a "reasonable" time, there is no general answer. Payment of a bonus is not something required by law; it's something companies choose to do, and which they lay out their own plans--contracts or agreements, if you would--to pay. The company must pay according to the terms of its agreement, so you need to look to what those terms where. At the end of the day, if you feel you should be paid and the company does not, you may sue them and let a court determine what your and the company's respective rights and obligatiosn are. You would provide any/all evidence shedding light on that: testimony of yourself and other witnesses; the terms of any written bonus plans or agreements that help show what this oral agreement was; etc.


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