What to do if I have started a new job and they have given me a “cognovit promissory note” to sign?

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What to do if I have started a new job and they have given me a “cognovit promissory note” to sign?

It basically states that they will provide me with training and tools for free but if I quit or get fired they will come after me for $6,000 which is the total cost of training and tools. They will excuse $2,000 per 12 months I work. Which after 3 years the $6,000 will be taken care of. I just want to know if this will hold up in court. I do not think it is fair if for some reason I get fired and have to owe them $6,000 and they take their tools back. Can you help clear this up for me?

Asked on May 16, 2013 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is not common, but it is legal as a general matter: there is no law against an employee paying for his/her tools or training, and similarly no law against an employer providing them, but then charging them back if the employee leaves employment too soon. Normally, though, the employee only has to repay if fired for cause or if he/she resigns, quits, etc.; an argument can be made that if the employee is fired but not for cause, then the agreement would fail for lack of consideration (since if the employee is fired for no reason, he/she is not getting anything--i.e. not getting employment--in return for the promise to repay). That said, you should not count on the agreement not being enforceable; the assumption should always be that if you sign it, you will held to it. Therefore, do not sign it and seek other employement if necessary if you are not comfortable with it.


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