As an at will employee, if i am terminated without cause is the company still required to pay my 2017 bonus?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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As an at will employee, if i am terminated without cause is the company still required to pay my 2017 bonus?

No contract. Do have proof of bonus being paid last 3 yrs and the formula in place. Company trying to get me to sign a 2 yr non-compete going out the door and holding my bonus as ransom. Did acknowledge in separation letter that I am due a bonus but afraid they will withhold if I don’t sign. Do not wish to sign the noncompete as I see no consideration for doing so but feel my bonus is owed for performance this year. Thoughts?

Asked on October 31, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Only if there was a written bonus or employment contract which by its plain terms guaranteed you a bonus in this situation would they have to pay you: without a contract, even if you received a bonus in prior years or there was some "formula" which the employer used to determine bonuses, gettng a bonus is still discretionary on the employer's part; they may freely decide to not pay it. Only a written contract makes it mandatory, not discretionary. Therefore, they do not need to pay your bonus at all, or could make it contingent on you signing the non-compete.

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