What to do about tuition reimbursement at my former employer?

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What to do about tuition reimbursement at my former employer?

When I resigned from my former company, I was asked to sign an agreement stating that I would pay back education assistance money that the company had paid. However, the agreement document was predated by the office manager dating back to a year before I even signed the document. I don’t believe I am contractually obligated to pay the money back because I had already finished a year of school, my company had already contributed to my tuition, and then a year later asked me to sign a pre-dated document.

Asked on May 7, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You likely would have a good defense to liability (to having to repay the money) if sued for it. To be an enforceable agreement, or contract, there must 1) have been an offer, 2) acceptance of that offer, and 3) an exchange of consideration, or things or promises of value. When an employer proposes paying employee tuition on condition the employee repays if he or she leaves before a certain date, that forms an enforceable agreement because providing tuition reimbursement in exchange for the employee's employment and promise to repay constitutes an exchange of consideration.

However, in the case you describe, since you were given the reimbursement without having to promise anything in return, the tuition does not constitute consideration for the promise to repay. And the promise to repay which you signed is not supported by any consideration, unless you received something new in exchange for that promise. Therefore, without having received consideration for the promise to repay, that promise should be a "gratuitious," or unenforceable, promise, rather than an enforceable agreement or contract. If you are sued, you should be able to dispute  the existence of any enforceable agreement, therefore, due to the absence of consideration.

You may need to be able to show that the agreement was formed after you had already  received the tuition, since if the agreement was ostensibly signed prior to receiving tuition, the company could claim that you were provided consideration. Therefore, an issue for you will be, if this comes to litigation, what evidence and testimony you can present to show when the document was in fact signed.


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