Can my employer obligate me to pay tuition for a required class upfront?

My employer is asking me to pay upfront for tuition for a class that was a job requirement, and then submit the cost of the class for reimbursement. The payment has to be made to the school (which is independent from my employer) in cash, check, or money order only. The amount is almost $3000, or about 50% of my gross monthly salary. Paying for it with cash would be a hardship for me, especially since reimbursements typically take 60 days. I explained this to my employer, but was told that there was no way for them to pay the school tuition directly to the school and that I have to be responsible for this. Their explanation is that previous 1099 workers have paid upfront and then were reimbursed; however, I am a full employee and not an independent contractor or vendor. Can my employer obligate me to pay upfront for the cost of this class?

2 answers  |  asked Jan 14, 2017 12:24 AM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (2)

V Jonas Urba

If education is a bona fide requirement of the position you seek to fill and you do not have it unless they are treating you differently or discriminating against you how would that be unlawful? If you were female and all the males were reimbursed up front and you had to pay to be reimbursed later of course that would be unlawful.

posted by V Jonas Urba  |  Jan 16, 2017 08:41 AM [EST]
V Jonas Urba
Hard to answer. Are you truly an exempt employee? If you still need education, such as getting an MBA, you may not qualify as exempt under the duties you perform. Although your salary appears to presumptively exempt you are you certain that you fall under an executive, professional, administrative, or other exemption? If not you may be entitled to be paid hourly for all overtime which you work. This is something to keep in mind for future reference because employees in NY recover up to 6 years of wages, plus another equal amount as liquidated damages plus their attorneys' fees when employers misclassify employees. You may decide to work for them and years later sue them with records of all the hours they did not properly pay you.

Which brings me to your question. You are not being paid below minimum wage obviously or hopefully even with the tuition. You are probably at will - no contract of employment. You probably want and maybe need the job. You may be able to deduct it as an educational requirement. See what Columbia says about tuition here:

posted by V Jonas Urba  |  Jan 16, 2017 08:37 AM [EST]

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