What are my rights if I am being asked to pay back bonuses that I received while I was on maternity leave?

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What are my rights if I am being asked to pay back bonuses that I received while I was on maternity leave?

Is it legal to take back bonuses after being approved by corporate office while a salaried employee is on maternity leave? I am a salaried employee of a nursing home. I receive bonuses monthly for admissions and while on maternity leave paid my bonuses to me as part of my salary. Upon returning to work they tell me that I owe them all of the bonus money back.

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the circumstances. If the bonus was discretionary and was awarded to you, the employer may not change its mind and rescind it. On the other hand, if there was some formula, set of targets, requirements, etc. which specificed how the bonsus was caclulated and would be awarded, and that formula, etc. was known to you in advance, then if you did not meet the requirements but the bonus was awarded in error, upon discoverinig the error, they may get it back. For example: say your bonus plan required that you work during a month to get the bonus, or that you are bonused for admissions which you approved or played a role in--since you are not "working" while on maternity leave and/or presumably did not play a role in those admissions, you would not have earned the bonus. In that event, if paid in error, they could request the money back.

If in doubt about whether it is proper or not for your employer to seek the return of the bonus, consult with an employment law attorney, bringing all documentation relating to the bonus.


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