Can a company take back a bonus already given ?

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Can a company take back a bonus already given ?

Was given almost 1000 for a yearly
bonus and was told after I received it
that they would be taking it back on the
next pay period because I was in
eligible for the bonus.. can they do
that?

Asked on June 14, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

It depends on "why" you were not eligible:
1) If there were written criteria or targets for the bonus and you simply did not meet them, they can take it back; in this case, issuing it to you was a mistake, and the law is very clear that a mistake does not entitle you to keep money that should not have been paid to you in the first place.
2) However, if it was a "discretionary" bonus--no set, defined written targets, just the employer's decision whether and how much to pay--then if they freely choose to issue it to you, they cannot later change their minds and take it back, since in this case, it was not a mistake when issued.


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