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Last year, I moved to a different state of the US to start a new job. The company gave me a signing bonus to assist with the relocation. If I leave the company within 2 years of starting, my offer letter says I need to pay back the signing bonus. My impression is that this means leaving of my own accord.

In the job, the company set me up to fail, according to my mentor (who is on my team). They placed me on a 30-day PIP (performance improvement plan) a week and a half ago, citing mostly dubious factors and creating goals which are almost entirely subjective. My mentor agreed. He has no idea why they would put me on a PIP.

Because I recently bought a house near the job and my spouse has no income, I started looking for a new job immediately.

However, my manager told me to make arrangements for an international business trip next month - which is after the PIP currently expires. The cost of this trip and the amount of my signing bonus add up to about a month's salary. If I had to pay it all back, I would effectively be working for free the whole time I am on the PIP.

Several questions:

  1. Would I need to pay for the business trip if the company terminates me before the trip?
  2. If I resign to start a new job, would I need to pay for the trip?
  3. Can I avoid needing to repay the signing bonus? If so, how?
  • 2
    All of this should be set out in your contract - that would be the best place to look for definitive answers. – berry120 May 12 at 20:04
  • @berry120 or, ask OP's manager. – Sourav Ghosh May 12 at 20:05
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    I can't really ask #2 to my manager without revealing (definitively) that I'm looking for another job. – capybara May 12 at 20:11
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    You don't need to tell anything about leaving, just mention something like "if I'm not an employee of the company anymore , because of the negative outcome of the PIP..." and it should suffice.\ – Sourav Ghosh May 12 at 20:25
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    Why would you be paying for a business trip they told you to go on? – cdkMoose May 14 at 15:24
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I'd say, re-check your contract. Most of the cases, the clause is, if you chose to leave the company (resign), you have to pay it back. If the company chooses to terminate your tenure for any reason, you need not to refund anything.

Given the scenario, answer to your questions:

1. Would I need to pay for the business trip if the company terminates me before the trip?

No, business trip expenses are usually paid by company, as you're travelling for the company business. If a company terminates you before the trip - you don't have any company business, so you don't make the trip.

If you're being asked to make the arrangements on your own (self-expense and reimbursement method) - be open to your manager about the situation and ask for advice. If they ask you to go ahead - insist on a written communication that irrespective of your employment condition, whatever cost you'll incur on planning the trip , you'll be reimbursed.

2. If I resign to start a new job, would I need to pay for the trip?

Usually, as long as you're on official business, you need not pay anything, as long as you're working for the company for the entire duration of the trip.

Also, refer to the advice in the answer to question 1.

3. Can I avoid needing to repay the signing bonus? If so, how?

If this in in the contract, and you're willing to resign, then I do not see any ways to avoid paying back. If the contract allows the company to terminate you without needing you to pay back - then you have that option.

  • 1
    On #3 - It's more needing to resign because they threatened my job security this explicitly. My spouse and I are getting a house built, not buying a resale house. If I lost my job, we would also lose the house because its contract would be null and void. Because the PIP has such a shaky foundation, I expect that even if I pass it, my trust in my employer and their perception of me will be quite damaged. – capybara May 12 at 20:15

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