Should a salaried employee receive their bonus for the month before they resign or can it be forfeited?

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2011

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Should a salaried employee receive their bonus for the month before they resign or can it be forfeited?

I gave my 2weeks notice 4 days ago but still have not received my bonus from last month. They told me my bonus for last month was forfeited with my resignation. Considering it it almost the end of the next month I clearly should get the bonus from the month prior? Right?

Asked on August 29, 2011 Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There is no general or one-size fits all answer: since companies are not obligated to pay bonuses at all, they are  free to set the terms and conditions of their bonus programs. That includes the conditions for eligibilty to be paid. A company may specify that if someone leaves work prior to receiving a bonus, he or she does not receive it--that is not illegal.

The issue is, what is the company's policy? First, if you have an employment agreement--or even just a bonus agrement--between yourself and the company, look to its terms; it will control. If there is no agrement, then what is the company's policy in this regard? While it can change its policy at will, it cannot do so retroactively, so whatever policy was in force when you resigned will apply. You can look to employee or job manuals, memos and emails and offer letters, and what the company has done in similar situations in the past (e.g. when other employees resigned) to see what their policy 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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