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Human Resources/Bonus Payout after Giving 2 Weeks Notice

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Question
Hi -

I'm about to leave my current job.  I established a start date for the new job based on giving two-week notice on 12/7.  I delayed giving notice by a few weeks in part to be able to collect 1/2 of my annual bonus.  I have to be an employee on the date the bonus is paid out.

The bonus is typically paid in parts, the first half is typically paid on the first Friday in December, 12/7 this year, and the second sometime in March.  I'm giving up the second 1/2 since I'd need to keep the new employer waiting until sometime in March.  That's too much to ask of them.  

Today they announced that they would make the partial payment on 12/17, 10 days later than expected and half way through what would have been my final two weeks.  If I wait to resign on 12/17, to ensure my employment on the date of payout, I can no longer provide 2 weeks notice and meet the agreed upon start date.

My question is, if I give two week notice on 12/7 is it legal for my employer to lay me off prior to 12/17 simply to avoid having to pay me the 1/2 bonus?  I've been a good employee with no past issues.  I even received the highest possible rating in my annual employee review last year.  There is no history of my performance that would warrant a layoff other than to avoid paying the bonus.

It's a big amount and I'm very concerned about the possibility of losing it.  I also don't want to delay my new employer any further unless it's absolutely necessary.

Thanks,
Brian

Answer
Hi Brian,

Sorry for my delay in response.

I understand your tough situation with giving notice and the obligations you would have in order to qualify for your bonus paid in December.  In paragraph #4 you ask if it is legal for the employer to lay you off so you don't get your bonus.   In Texas,  Yes it is...    

This is due, in my interpretation to the"at will" employment doctrine.  Here's a page to give you more insight.
http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2001/01/art1full.pdf


This can also be a real gray area.   The idea of "at will" employment comes into play.  In some states, even though no contract of employment exists, there may still be ramifications for employers who act in poor public policy situations #like firing someone so they don't get a bonus# or laying someone off when there was an expectation of employment for a particular term, etc.   Off course, not knowing your relationship there with the powers that be, it is very possible the employer could "find a reason"  and decide to lay you off because all of a sudden things "got slow" and they need to lay you off and would have done so ANYWAY with or without your notice to resign-- and either way you would not get your bonus...   So, you see this "gray" area now becomes the playground for the attorney you want to hire to fight to get your 1/2 bonus....     So now you are fighting to show the company was malicious and the company is putting records together to prove you would not have had the bonus anyway...    So, "legally" can they fire you before the bonus pay date so you don't get it..  sure-- then there is another issue on whether you or they can prove or defend what was done was not in bad taste.    It they did, it would surely be in bad form.     Hopefully, you work for a Company- like MOST of them that do treat employees fairly even when they are leaving their employment.

Of course, if you feel you really have a great relationship with them, then why not ask a TRUSTED manager if they can help you get your bonus and accept the notice fairly.   You could "sweeten" your offer by telling them you will remain available for up to another 30 days if they need you for anything.    

The best overall solution is to hold off with giving your employer the notice.    Confide in the new employer the situation as you explained above and tell them how all of a sudden you expect to lose  $  5,000  # or whatever#  by resigning a week early.  Explain carefully you had planned this out but the tables turned unexpectedly.    Ask what they suggest.   You could offer to push back your start date if they are flexible- especially since asking you to forfeit $ 5,000  would really not be a good way for you to start a trusting relationship.

The fact is, there is really no urgency in the world for having you start on any particular day.  Waiting a week or two will typically not break a deal or end the world.    So,  you may want to call the new employer,  tell them how excited you are to start, and WHY you need to ask to push it out for 2 more weeks at the possible expense of losing a big amount of cash.

If they really want you and are respectful, it should not be a big deal.

I'd be interested to hear how it turns out for you.

Brian Phillips

Human Resources

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Brian Phillips

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Foreign and US university students -*PLEASE*- DO NOT waste your time asking for my opinions, comments or analysis of your homework questions. Homework questions are not answered and are rejected. I am happy to help answer questions asked by employees and employers regarding United States based state and Federal wage and hour, OT, Fair labor standards, FMLA, COBRA, Recruiting, Interviewing techniques, employee manuals, discipline, terminations/quits, unemployment, HRIS rollout, Employee Leasing or Staffing company cost analysis, day to day scenarios, work situations and more. Essentially a well rounded HR generalist who operates Harvis, Inc., a human resource consulting and service business based in Northeastern Pennsylvania "NEPA". http://www.harvis.org

Experience

At Harvis, Inc., we provide Human Resource products, services and advice to small businesses that may not have the time or resources to hire a full time HR department. For larger companies with HR managers in place, we compliment their expertise to help with time consuming or time sensitive projects like updating policy manuals, screening and interviewing and more. We make workplaces better by becoming that 1/2 person they need to help handle HR responsibilities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Formerly responsible for all Human Resource activity for a staffing agency with 2,500 annual employees as well as an employee leasing / PEO business with 1,500 annual employees. Designed and implemented the HR structure to support hundreds of clients in excess of $ 500 million in payroll volume over career in Human Resources.

Organizations
* President 2006- Harvis Inc. HR Services * President 2010-13 Business Association of the Greater Shickshinny Area - Shickshinny PA * President 2013- ShickshinnyForward Not for Profit Community Long Term Revitalization Organization and former member of varios Chambers of Commerce and HR Taskforce, former President of NBC Business Club 2 years

Education/Credentials
Bloomsburg University - 1993 BS Marketing, Bloomsburg Pennsylvania and Luzerne County Community College - 1991 Business Administration, Nanticoke Pennsylvania

Awards and Honors
* Better than average - 20/10 vision * Bestowed with an occasional "Thank You" from clients and their employees.

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