Enforceability of Employee Bonuses | Mann & Elias
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Enforceability of Employee Bonuses


You work hard at your job. Bonuses are included as part of your work contract. If you have met the requirements for such a bonus, then you should receive it. The failure of your company to deliver is wrong and, in many cases, illegal. You have the right to protect your rights and financial interests.

Must Your Employer Pay A Promised Bonus?

Your employer is legally obligated to pay employee bonuses if it is in the employment contract you signed. In some instances, an employer can be made to pay a bonus that was promised through oral agreement. In these cases, it is helpful to get the testimony of witnesses to the agreement. And not even then is your claim secure.

How Courts View Bonuses

Courts view bonuses as part of a contract between employer and employee. They are a form of exchange: you give some specific thing of value and your employer is obligated to compensate you with a specific sum of money. Bonuses are only valid for future work; they do not apply to work already done.

Promised Bonuses That Are Not in the Contract

Courts will consider bonus promises that are not explicitly set down in the employment contract. A judge may hold an employer liable on the legal basis of detrimental reliance. That is a principle of law in which someone goes back on a promise that someone is relying on.

The courts will only invoke this principle for cases that present serious injustice. For example:

  • Your boss promises you a bonus that they do not put in writing.
  • You decide to use your savings or borrow money to make a down payment on a new house.
  • Before going through with the transaction you ask your boss to confirm that you will get the promised bonus on a set date. They verify that you will.
  • The date comes and goes, and you get no bonus. You go back to your boss to ask about it, only to discover that they changed their minds.

It is the kind of case that a court will consider under detrimental reliance.

Receiving a Bonus After Termination

It is hard to get a bonus if you leave the company before receiving it or get fired. In some instances, courts have ordered employers to pay full or partial bonuses if the employee met all the requirements of receiving the money and left the company just before receiving the money. This order is usually given in cases in which the employee left the company on good terms.

When to Call a Lawyer

If you believe you have been denied a promised bonus or have not received what you got promised in full, you will feel a sense of frustration. In some cases, employers can be reasoned with and the problems with getting your bonus resolved. In other instances, the denial of your bonus is an act of bad faith on the part of your legal representation. It would be best if you did not try to handle the matter on your own. You should call a Los Angeles employment lawyer from Mann & Elias.

Getting Justice and Your Bonus

Lawyers have the skills and experience to carry out a thorough analysis of the facts and circumstances of the promised bonus and provide you with the representation you need to get the money you have worked so hard for.

The first thing your legal counsel will do is review your contract to determine if it contains language setting out the criteria and schedule of a bonus. If it does and your employer believes they can reverse themselves on a whim, bring it to the attention of your legal counsel. They know how to undermine whatever excuse they try to put forward. Some employers act in bad faith because they believe they can get away with it; employers will be too timid to go up against them and risk losing their job and a good reference. In cases like these, judges will not only force the employer to pay the bonus. They will also order employment protections for the plaintiff.

Bonus pay dispute attorneys in Los Angeles can also help in cases where a contract does not include an employee bonus. In these instances, bonus dispute attorneys will establish a claim for detrimental reliance. The legal professionals you hire will gather the evidence necessary to show that you had a reasonable expectation of receiving a bonus. At Mann & Elias, we will get justice if you have been denied your bonus.


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