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

UPDATED: Jun 7, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.

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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