Recovering expense funds from former employer
February 9, 2012 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Legal advice on recovering expenses from my former company that doesn't want to pay?

I'm aware you're not a lawyer and if you are, you're not MY lawyer.

A little over 3 years ago, I travelled to India on behalf of my Fortune 500 company to assist in migrating one of their support desks there from the States (specifically, Texas). Everything went well during the trip (to the point of everyone involved in the transition receiving recognition from the client), until I got back and tried to file for reimbursement of the funds outlaid during the trip (charged to the corporate American Express card issued in my name specifically for this trip - a card I'm responsible for the charges of, not the company).

Prior to the trip, everyone in my section of the company was moved into a new off-shoot / child company of the parent corporation; the intent of this "lateral move" was to reduce costs for the parent corporation obviously - prior to the trip, I was advised that I was the only person from the new company to receive permission to travel overseas, and given some workaround for the expense system. The initial reimbursement went through, for a small portion of the expenses, during the trip (around $1k). After the trip, I tried to request reimbursement for the rest of the funds (around $5k), and was advised that I was not permitted to request funds for overseas transactions.

This has gone back and forth for a while, and I'm getting a bit fed up with it. While this is not a large sum of money, I don't make a lot and this has impacted my credit. I have all the receipts for the trip, as well as contacts who care verify I was there on corporate business. I'd like to know if it's possible to recover the funds, as well as have the company pay for any legal fees incurred by my having to file a lawsuit - punitive damages would also be great but are a side concern.

My main concern at this point is this has dragged on so long, I might be outside the statute of limitations for recovering these funds.
posted by unrulychild to Work & Money (9 answers total)
 
You need to see a lawyer as soon as you can because of the limitations issue. There's nothing else to say to your question, besides that.
posted by smorange at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2012


Having a lawyer write a demand letter might be enough to shake this thing loose. Here is a rundown of stuff that you should verify with your lawyer:

Yes, you're right to be concerned about the statute of limitations. Even contract and fraud claims, which typically have longer statutes of limitations, are apparently just four years in Texas. But you at least seem to not be time-barred yet on those claims.

Also, while in some states you might have a state law wage claim, that doesn't appear to be the case in Texas, where expenses are not considered wages. Ask your lawyer about this anyway.

Punitive damages are unlikely. Punitive damages require some sort of statutory basis in many states (and I believe Texas follows this rule as well). Also, punitive damages are not available in contract claims, so you'd need to prevail in a tort claim where they're authorized, or make some kind of statutory claim. You can't get punitive damages from a contract claim, and what you have looks an awful lot like a type of contract claim.

You may, however, seemingly get attorney fees in Texas if you win, even on a contract claim. Texas doesn't follow the normal rule here.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:59 PM on February 9, 2012


Thanks for the answers. I'll definitely be lawyering up; my inquiry regarding the punitive damages would be based on the fact that AmEx is still pursuing partial payment of this debt (I was terminated from the company shortly after the migration) and the run-around I've been getting from my former employer has affected my credit - but I'm aware that the fact of the matter that I was legally responsible for the charges on the card, this may be a moot point.
posted by unrulychild at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2012


Or you know this is kind of what small claims court is for. No lawyers allowed, you're under 10k. IF nothing else it becomes enough of a hassle that they'd likely pay you as soon as they're served.

I'm not sure there is a statute of limitations on something like this. When would the clock start? It sounds like you've been doing your part in pursuing it.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:23 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would NOT lawyer up if I were you. 5k can be recovered in small claims court. Lawyering up will be expensive and you may end up spending and getting nothing in return. Gather all of the documentation you have that your company agreed to pay expenses, and send a certified letter to the company stating what you are owed and that they have a short period (say 10 business days) to pay you, otherwise you will file suit. If they do not pay you, file suit in small claims court.

I had a slam-dunk case where I was not paid for my contract web development services for 6 weeks. I spent almost $3k on legal fees to recover $12k (and the legal fees were NOT reimbursed by the person who owed me, because we didn't end up going to court). The lawyer route is glacially slow and very expensive.
posted by parrot_person at 6:09 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


A decent lawyer will not waste your time if the case can be pursued in small claims. In such a case, the lawyer will give you advice on how to proceed on your own. The consult would not take long but would be tremendously helpful to give you an idea of what to expect, how to frame your argument, etc.
posted by smorange at 7:00 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


smorange has a good point. I won't generally take a case (unless the client insists) if I think the client would be better served by pursuing it in small claims.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:42 PM on February 9, 2012


Check this list of the statute of limitations on debts to see what it is in your state.

Nthing small claims court. This is precisely what that's for.
posted by waldo at 9:04 PM on February 9, 2012


Just throwing this out there...if small claims doesn't work, and you have the ability to pay off the remaining debt, I believe you can claim unreimbursed business expenses on your taxes. Probably not as good as getting the money back from your old employer, but perhaps easier and cheaper in the long run than lawyering up or wasting time pursuing it further since they aren't cooperating.
posted by trivia genius at 7:21 AM on February 10, 2012


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