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Employment Law/Refusal by Employer to honor Offer Letter


Good afternoon Frank;

I'm going to try to make this short but it's complicated. Here's the cliff notes version;
I was employed by a TX LLC with 2 owners. They are now in litigation and the company is having trouble. As a result I was laid of specifically for a "lack of work in my area" (I live/work in New Mexico).
I was laid off on 3/29. I had not been paid my bonus from 2012 so I mentioned it to the remaining owner so it could be paid. We went back and forth in emails, he said he wasn't sure how it was calculated (he was the hands "off" owner), asked if I had any documentation about my bonus (which at the time I couldn't locate), he sent another email saying we'd discuss because he wanted to be "fair to me", etc.. I subsequently found my Offer Letter which expressly states "A Production bonus paid at the end of each year equaling 30% of your production above $10,000 per month." Pretty cut and dry to me.
I was employed with them on 6/25/12 and 4 of the 6 months of 2012 I exceeded my goals and by my calculations, am owed a bonus of approximately $2,800.
He has now sent me an email stating that I "wasn't employed for a full year and in his opinion, I don't deserve a bonus." Despite the Offer Letter which I accepted and was signed by the President of the Company. There is absolutely NO stipulation or condition that I have to be employed for a full year and even with the 2 months I missed my goals in 2012, when all is totaled together, I had a goal of $60,000 in production for 6 months of work and produced over $65,000. So no matter how you slice it, in my mind and reasoning, I'm owed a bonus.
So, my questions are; is the Offer Letter a legally binding Unilateral Contract as I presume it to be? If so, in your experience, how difficult is it to enforce? And should I chose to pursue it, which I believe I will, do I pursue it with the Labor Department in my state or in TX or both? Or do I pursue it in a civil/small claims court?

Any assistance you can offer is greatly appreciated. And thanks for volunteering your time.


Hi, Kristen.  

The offer letter should be held binding on a Texas employer by the Texas Workforce Commission.  You accepted the offer by taking the job, which is enough to create a basic contractual arrangement.  However, if the letter also contains any kind of disclaimer, that language is also important to interpreting what the employer committed to pay you.

The TWC has jurisdiction over all Texas-based employers, and while it's possible that you could file a wage claim in New Mexico for your bonus, it's easier for the TWC to enforce a ruling against a Texas employer than it would be for  New Mexico to enforce its own finding, assuming you prevailed on a claim.  (It usually takes some extra legal work to enforce one state's ruling in another state, which would just cost you more, even if you win.)

If you do file a claim for the bonus before the TWC, I would expect the employer to contend that the language you quoted about your being entitled to a production bonus "at the end of each year" referred to full years of employment rather than calendar years, which seems to be what the owner was saying when he told you he didn't think you deserved a bonus.  The TWC would have to look at all documentation regarding your employment and investigate how the employer handled it with other employees in order to reach a decision.  

It is not necessary for you to have a lawyer to file a TWC wage claim, and the hearing in many cases can be held by telephone, so you might not have to travel to Texas.  I would encourage you, however, to consult with a local employment lawyer before filing your claim to get additional advice.  If you don't know an employment attorney in your area you can obtain a referral from your county or city Bar Association by doing an Internet search on the name of your county and city and the words "lawyer referral service."

You can also learn more about the TWC and how to file a claim at this site:

I hope you find this helpful.  

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Frank C. Magill


I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.


30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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