Can I Sue My Employer For Not Giving Me a Bonus?

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The promise of a bonus can be the highlight of a summer job for a cash-strapped student working when they’re off from classes. But what happens when the bonus never gets paid?

The Carter Law Firm, an employment law firm based in Orange County, often hears from summer workers who are cheated out of overtime pay or benefits. Some of our clients are also promised bonuses — and never get them.

Before anything, you should probably talk to your boss or manager to sort out any possible mistakes or confusion about your bonus. But if your boss denies that they offered you a bonus, or that you are owed one, there’s a possibility that you can get that money through the court.

It’s important to note that employers are not required by law to offer bonuses in the first place. If your boss offers you a bonus at all, it’s going to be either an “unearned” or “earned” bonus. Here’s the difference:

  • Unearned bonus: An unearned bonus is usually not connected to work performance and is given by your employer at their discretion. So if your employer gives employees some extra cash for a holiday, for example, that’s considered an unearned bonus.
  • Earned bonus: Earned bonuses are promised beforehand in connection to work bonuses. If your employer promises you a bonus for working a certain number of hours, or for selling a certain number of products, that’s considered an earned bonus.

When you’re not given the earned bonus you were promised, you can sue your employer to get that money, even if you left the company before you were paid.

You may also have a legal claim if you were promised an unearned bonus during your time as an employee — but you won’t be able to get your company’s Christmas bonus if you worked during the summer. You’ll only be able to sue for the unearned bonuses that were handed out while you worked there.

Bonuses are considered wages in California and by law must be paid in a timely manner. Whether your bonus is unearned or earned, you should expect the bonus on your paycheck during the pay period it’s been promised.

If you’re not sure whether your bonus is unearned or earned, or whether you think you can make a claim against your employer, contact the Carter Law Firm and we’ll review your claim for free. We know that employers can sometimes take advantage of summer workers, and we want to make sure you’re getting the money you’ve earned. Contact us confidentially by filling out the form below.

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