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I started my position in February and was presented today, 3/5/2020, with an "Employment Agreement" which states, in part, "If the employee terminates employment prior to December 31, 2020, liquidated damages of 80 hours at the current rate of pay will be retained by the company, in lieu of employee training received". Please note that the training I received was strictly provided by another employee. It will not provide me with any official credentials or certificates. I have not been provided any training by outside entities. I was hired as an Administrative Assistant in a non-exempt position. My employer is Alaska-based and I am in Alaska as well. was never told before I was hired about any "Employment Agreement", so I was shocked today when I received it. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank You!

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    You should probably go ask a lawyer regarding the language and specific details of that sentence, but its pretty normal for companies to want to recover any money spent on official training courses they send you to. They don't want people to just hop around and get free training at their loss
    – Shadowzee
    Mar 6, 2020 at 5:39
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    Is this part of your employment contract? Or a seperate document you are asked to sign? Are you working in an at-will state? Mar 6, 2020 at 5:45
  • Sounds like it could be worse--40 hours of your current rate + 40 hours of the trainer's rate!
    – Mars
    Mar 6, 2020 at 6:19
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    Have you checked your law? In my country (in EU), it is regulated when the employee can be forced to pay money back. Moreover, your worker's comitee might have negotiated some additional rules, for example, under which circumstances you do not have to pay back (maybe moving in different country, when getting children,...) I think it should be the same in every civilised country.
    – guest
    Mar 6, 2020 at 6:43
  • Such an agreement should have been given before the training started, not after. Mar 6, 2020 at 10:49

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For the record, this is not uncommon for a company to protect itself like this. I don't think it would matter who is providing the training, it is still a cost to the company (though it is important for other reasons). Though such agreements should from as part of an employment contract. An unsigned agreement is worth nothing.

If you have already signed a contract with the company, they can't compel you to effectively modify that contract. This would especially be the case if there is no consideration. This means if they are asking you to put (at a guess) a couple of thousand dollars at risk, you should get something for that risk.

Now, if this training WOULD be useful to you outside the company, this is consideration as you're getting value. If this training is mostly useless outside the company, there is a lack of consideration there. So, you should determine what those training costs go towards before you consider agreeing. Will what you learn help you find employment elsewhere? Though it's worth remembering even if the training is amazingly useful, you still need to agree to the agreement before it becomes binding.

You should read anything you've agreed to already very carefully before proceeding.

All this is probably moot if you have no employment protection in your contract. Alaska is at-will. Which means they can just decide to fire you, unless your contract protects you.

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  • You might consider writing in the word "voluntarily" to change If the employee terminates employment prior to .., so it reads If the employee voluntarily terminates employment prior to .., That would make it clear they can't just sack you to claw back two weeks' pay.
    – O. Jones
    Mar 6, 2020 at 13:27
  • I would argue that the contract already covers this case. Contracts are often very literal. “If the employee terminates employment” can only happen if the employee ends their employment which would could only be voluntarily done.
    – Donald
    Mar 6, 2020 at 18:10

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