What are my options for not paying back a sign-on bonus?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What are my options for not paying back a sign-on bonus?

I was paid a sign on bonus. In the offer letter it stated if I leave before 12 months, I would owe back a pro-rated portion. I left after 6 months. The company has garnished my last paycheck, and given me roughly a month to pay back the remaining portion. I do not recall signing anything stating that I agree to pay back anything. I do have the money so I can pay it back but frankly I gave enough of my life to that company in those 6 months I just don’t want to repay them. Do I have any option for refusal to repay?

Asked on June 16, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the offer letter stated that you would repay the bonus pro rata if you left before 12 months, then by accepting the job and bonus with knowledge of that condition or obligation, you would be held to have consented or agreed to it and are required to repay the appropriate amount (presumably 50%). An enforceable agreement can be formed without a signature, by actions which show consent or agreement to the terms. Accepting payment when told you'd have to repay it under certain conditions, for example, creates an agreement to repay under those circumstances. You appear to have to repay the appropriate percentage of the bonus.

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