What to do if a previous employer asks for tuition money to be reimbursed after more than 1 1/2 years?

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What to do if a previous employer asks for tuition money to be reimbursed after more than 1 1/2 years?

My previous job paid for my tuition (to get my MBA). When I left 19 months ago they never asked for it. Now they have come back and want $10,000 back. Yet, when I left the company I mentioned to HR about the tuition and the answer was it is OK, don’t worry about it. I thought they would keep my bonus for the tuition. Also 2 months before I decided to leave I talked to my boss about my development plan and his suggestions to me was it is better for you to leave if you want to move up.

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The issue is, what were the terms between you and the employer *before* they committed to paying for you and you agreed to let them pay. If the agreement had been that if they paid for your tuition, you would have to reimburse it unless you worked for a certain minimum period of time afterwards, that would be enforceable--it's actually a very common term.

However, the employer cannot change the terms under which they provided tuition reimbursement after the fact. So if at the time they choose to reimburse you and you accepted the reimbursement, there was no repayment obligation on you, they can't impose one now.

The controlling issue, therefore, will be what did you and your employer agree to at the time they offered you reimbursement; that agreement is what can be enforced.


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