Can an employer fire you and expect back relocation expenses?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer fire you and expect back relocation expenses?

My spouse just moved to Colorado for her job. Her employer offered 5,000 in relocation expenses. According to the contract if she leaves her position for any reason she’s obligated to pay it back. Now she’s worried they’ll fire or lay her off in order to collect the 5,000 back. Is that possible?

Asked on April 25, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Generally, even with an agreement like this, the employer can only recover the relocation expenses if:
1) The employee voluntarily leaves employment (quits or resigns); or 
2) The employee is fired "for cause," such as violating policy or manager instructions, insubordination, damage employer property, theft, excessive absenteeism, etc. 
However, if the employee is let go not for cause, which includes for being a bad fit, personality conflict, her position is eliminated, performance issues, etc., she would not have to repay.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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