Being pressured by my company to sign legal documents
February 22, 2012 8:10 PM Subscribe
Being pressured by my company to sign legal documents. This seems very not okay.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an American, working on a 1.5 year project in Canada for my international company. To satisfy Canadian tax requirements, my company paid a bunch of money to the Canadian govt, above and beyond our normal salaries + US tax. I can't tell exactly, but this amount is between $10-20k. When we employees do our US taxes, we can claim a credit on all foreign-paid taxes and recover that amount. Our company then expects us to pay that tax credit money back to them, but... they never got employees to formally agree to that ahead of time.
Now that tax time is approaching, they're trying to get all employees to sign an agreement saying they'll pay the amount back. They're framing the agreement as a simple acknowledgement of the tax process, but from a legal standpoint (I think?) this signed agreement would give them the teeth to sue us if they don't get their money. It also makes employees financially liable for any costs associated with delays in tax processing. (So if you sign this document, you better fall right in line or it could cost you a bundle.)
Also, the company is requiring US employees to use their designated tax preparation firm (they'll pay for this) -- presumably, to ensure that they get their money back. The tax prep firm has its own legal agreement for us, which contains a clause whereby employees to agree to share our entire tax return with our company or any 3rd party -- an invasive overreach into our privacy. Our company is saying that only special cases, which they may or may not approve, can use their own tax preparation services. And in these cases, our company will require access to instruct our tax accountants on how to prepare our taxes.
Most employees have signed these agreements. I can only assume they either didn't read the fine print or they don't value their personal privacy.
I haven't signed anything, but I'm getting a lot of pressure from management to sign. E-mails, ambush conference calls, managers showing up at my desk... all insisting that I sign these agreements. Human Resources here appears to exist to protect the company from its employees, so no help there -- in fact, that's the source of most of the pressure. (I asked whether there was a staff lawyer that employees could use to represent our interests. No reply.) As the pressure escalates, I fully expect that they will delay my annual bonus (around $10k) and/or raises, possibly threaten to fire me, until I sign both agreements.
So a few questions, understanding that you are not my lawyer:
1. Is it legal for the company to pressure employees to sign legal agreements? Specifically, is it legal to withhold financial compensation or threaten termination unless we sign an agreement?
2. Would such an agreement signed under pressure be binding? Would this situation constitute "duress"?
3. Can companies require employees to use particular tax preparation services? Can they demand access to other tax preparation services?
4. Is this a scenario where I should immediately lawyer up and it's obvious to everybody but me?