Collect an Earned or Accrued Bonus

If you are fired right before you are scheduled to receive a bonus

Some employers fire workers right before they are scheduled to receive a bonus and deny such bonuses by stating a person must be employed on the day of bonus checks are issued as a condition of payment.

If this happens to you, or you are denied a bonus for any reason:

  • Send a letter to protect your rights.
  • Argue that you would have received the bonus but for the firing.
  • Demand that you are entitled to receive a pro rata share of the bonus if you are fired close to or before the end of the year
    • For example, if you are fired on December 1, negotiate to receive eleven-twelfths of the bonus you were expecting.

Many people fail to understand their rights regarding bonuses and are later disappointed or exploited. Depending on the facts, employers may have no legal obligation to pay an annual bonus if you’re fired or quit unless you can prove a bonus was agreed upon.

Try to link the bonus to some verifiable formula such as profits of your division, company revenue or output. Such arrangement can give you extra legal protection; in the event, you aren’t paid a correct amount, you would be able to verify the bonus from the company’s books and records. In fact, if a bonus-enforceable-by-contract arrangement could be proved in court, you could have the right to inspect the employer’s book and records.


The key to claiming you are entitled to a bonus is to overcome an employer’s standard defense that bonus policies are discretionary, gratuitous, and paid at the employer’s whim and discretion in an amount determined solely by the employer. Request a verifiable bonus that is not subject to the employer’s discretion when negotiating a job to avoid this possibility. Specify the amount, when it will be paid, and that there are no strings or conditions attached. Treat the bonus as part of your salary package; this will increase your legal rights in a breach of contract lawsuit in the event you aren’t paid.

It also helps if you regularly received bonuses to demonstrate it was an integral part of your total compensation package. Document all promises made to you concerning a bonus.

The best way to assert a valid legal claim for an earned raise or bonus is after you receive a concrete promise from the company in a contract, policy manual, or other writing which grants a pay increase upon the happening of a certain event and that objective occurs. Be aware, however, that if the employer reserves the right not to pay the raise or bonus for any reason in its sole discretion, you are probably out of luck.