Tuition and Quitting

by Evil HR Lady on September 10, 2008

I was reading your blog about Tuition Policies. I’m in a very unique situation and wondered your advice.

My previous company paid for my Tuition for 1 year, then they informed me that they were going to outsource my job, and I wouldn’t have to pay this back.

However, they refused to give me a set time frame for my last day of work. Since I was a new home owner, and would only receive 4 weeks severance pay I felt I would be gambling on finding a new job with a small time frame, so I decided to leave once I was offered another job. Now, I put myself in the position to re-pay what they paid for my tuition. I noticed in your blog that you said . . .”it’s next to impossible to get that money back if the person doesn’t willingly cough up the check”, I just wanted to know your thoughts on this topic? What can the company do, if I don’t repay this money?

The company can take you to court and sue you and they would win. Yeah! Just what you want to do. You want a court judgment issued against you.

Now, the probably won’t, but they might. You don’t want it to come to that. You also signed a contract and legally you are obligated to repay, since your resignation was voluntary. Now, since you had already been told that your position was being outsourced, you might be able to argue that this was a version of a constructive discharge. Usually this is applied when your company makes it so miserable that you have to leave. I could argue that by telling you your job is eliminated and not giving you a time frame, the only rational decision was to quit and therefore you were forced into it.

I doubt you could win that argument in court. And as I said, you don’t want to go to court anyway. Plus, you are an honest person and want to do the right thing. It’s one year of tuition. Step up to the plate and approach the person responsible for such things. Present your case and say, “under the circumstances, I believe it’s fair if I repay 1/3 of the tuition. After all, my job was scheduled for outsourcing and I saved you the cost of 4 weeks severance.” They’ll probably jump at it, given that they don’t want to go to court either.

Keep in mind that the person who manages the tuition reimbursement program probably does not have the authority to approve such a thing. So, if she immediately says no, ask who would have the authority to approve a deal and go to them. Frankly, I think they’d be fools not to accept it. You may have to negotiate a little bit and pay a bit more, but I doubt they’ll come after you for the whole amount.

Or, you could get someone who is a complete policy nut who will become apoplectic at the mere thought of granting an exception. If so, I’m sorry.

I feel your pain. And for the record, I think you made the right decision. No point staying on when you have an indefinite term date. Companies that do that type of thing to you should be offering stay bonuses, but even those are rarely worth turning down a real job for.

Good luck in your new job.

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