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Unpaid Bonuses

Bonuses Promised to Employees Must Be Paid According to Employer's Written Policy


The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA) expands upon federal laws governing unpaid bonuses for employees. An employer has wide discretion about whether to offer bonuses, but once it is promised, the bonuses must be paid to you according to the employer’s policy.

Employers have wide discretion to implement and modify the terms of a bonus agreement. Frequent disputes arises when an employer announces changes to your existing bonus agreement or when you are terminated or resign prior to payment of the bonus. Whether you can recover a bonus after termination is based upon many factors, including:

  • Whether the bonus plan had a “forfeiture” clause;
  • Whether the bonus plan was oral or in writing;
  • The clarity of the bonus agreement’s terms; and
  • When or how the bonus is “earned.”

Under North Carolina law, a prevailing employee represented by an attorney in an unpaid bonus lawsuit may be able to recover your reasonable attorneys’ fees, court costs, and interest. Furthermore, because bonuses are “wages” under the NCWHA, a prevailing plaintiff can be awarded twice the amount of unpaid wages as “liquidated damages.” Thus, if you think you should have been paid a $25,000 year-end bonus, a judge can award you $50,000, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

Our civil trial lawyers are experienced in assisting employees in wage disputes for unpaid bonuses. If you have not been properly paid any wages, including bonuses, we may be able to assist you in recovering what you are owed. We handle unpaid wage claims on a contingency basis – meaning no fees are owed unless we recover something from you – and we provide free consultations.


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