Required to repay relocation if job is different than agreed?

I'm an at will employee of a North Carolina firm, working in St. Louis, MO. When I agreed to join the firm, my employment was contingent upon my signing a contract stating that I would repay the firm for any relocation benefits should I voluntarily leave with 12 months. Once I started at the firm, my duties and responsibilities have been significantly different than those to which I agreed when I accepted the offer. I've raised these issues with my manager, but after several months nothing has changed. I've since decided to leave the firm before 12 months have expired.

The relocation repayment agreement was submitted separately from the "at will" employment contract. The "at will" employment contract states that they can change my duties at anytime. The relocation repayment agreement states that signing it is a condition of my employment, and that the laws of North Carolina will apply (I signed the contract in Portland, Oregon but the position was in St. Louis, MO).

Am I obligated to repay the firm? Do I have any wiggle room given the fact that my duties are significantly different than those that were described to me and to which I agreed? Also, the statement they've given to me regarding the relocation benefits they've provided to me include amounts for things such as the rent they paid for me at a temporary apartment which seems significantly above the market rate in St. Louis... Do I have any flexibility arguing against items such as this?

Thanks in advance!!!

1 answer  |  asked Jul 27, 2009 5:04 PM [EST]  |  applies to North Carolina

Answers (1)

Reagan Weaver
It is not a good idea to give you much advice without seeing your contract. You might have a term in the contract that helps you that you don't realize is important. Also, the contracts were signed at different times apparently. If there was a significant lag between when you began employment and when you signed the relocation agreement, maybe there is an argument that there was no consideration for the relocation contract making it unenforceable. I can't tell from your facts whether that is a real possibility.

Among the things that I would suggest you consider would be whether you were recruited for the job, whether you had to uproot your family to take it, and whether you had to spend your own funds to take and manage the job. These factors would give you a better moral argument if your legal argument is weak.

You don't say how long you did work. The closer you got to working 12 months, the less likely they will go after you.

They invested some funds in your apartment. How about training you? Did you hit the ground running or did it take some time to get you trained so you could make a contribution? Or, did they have to spend funds to send you to special training?

You might have a defense that works. Without knowing more though, I would concentrate on identifying all the moral reasons why you should be allowed to leave without paying the reimbursement. This is preparation for what may just need to be a negotiation. Meanwhile, I would seek an experienced employment attorney in St. Louis to advise you and look at the contract documents. Good luck!

posted by Reagan Weaver  |  Jul 27, 2009 6:55 PM [EST]

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