How do I quit my job in such a way that I still collect upcoming bonus?
May 10, 2007 8:52 PM   Subscribe

I am on the verge of leaving my job at a large game company (the largest) in order to start work elsewhere. Our annual bonus (based on company performance over the last year, expected to be quite good this year) isn't issued till June 1st. I am wondering-- if I give notice and leave before June 1st, am I still entitled to this bonus? How can I find out without potentially spilling the beans that I'm leaving? (I haven't told my manager yet.) Also, if I give 2 weeks notice in such a way that my last day is after June 1st, can the company terminate me in less than 2 weeks so that I don't get my bonus? (In other words if I want to be absolutely sure of collecting my bonus, would it be safest to not give notice at all until June 1st? Assuming I can delay my start date at the new place that long...)

The bonus is related to our work over the last 4 quarters, so in a sense I've 'earned' it. But I don't know if that matters.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (31 answers total)

My mother worked at a loan company and had much the same situation occur. They still paid hers out.

Meanwhile, call an HR person from another phone?

Check your hiring contract/new hire packet, if you have one?
posted by disillusioned at 8:59 PM on May 10, 2007

I would personally play it safe and wait until after I got my bonus to give notice. I really don't see the company giving a bonus to someone whom they know is jumping ship. A bonus is suppossed to be incentive to keep doing a good job and I don't think they are required in anyway to give you one.
posted by trbrts at 8:59 PM on May 10, 2007

If you work for a large company, they probably have an internal website that has a whole slew of useful HR-related information like that. The large company that I may or may not work for has one, and it lists the rules for receiving bonuses on one of its HR pages that explains how they are calculated and all that stuff.

That said, I'd wait to give notice until after the bonus hit my bank account.
posted by bedhead at 9:05 PM on May 10, 2007

My last employer had a twice yearly incentive bonus for sales people and it was never paid out to people who left the company.

Unless you have a contract that states the terms clearly, I think your bonus is in definite danger if you give notice before the first. Do you know anyone who has left the company before the last bonus was paid? Could call discretely and see if they received a payment?
posted by saffry at 9:07 PM on May 10, 2007

I work in HR. Where I work, bonuses are merit-based, meaning no one's technically 'entitled' to anything. Some who have left before bonuses were paid received theirs; most did not. Stay and do not announce your resignation until after June 1st.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2007

It depends. Are the bonuses given on a discretionary basis, or are they tied directly to performance (i.e. your score on an employee evaluation)? I went through a similar experience (I'm in Canada BTW)--the company denied they owed me and I ended up filing a claim with the provincial labour ministry, where it was ruled that because the bonuses were tied to my evaluation score (or something slightly more complicated than that), they counted as wages and not discretionary income. Thus, they owed me. I'd call your state/provincial labour department.
posted by Succa at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2007

in my experience, most companies require you to be an employee in good standing to get the bonus. if you want it, stick around until you get it.
posted by lester at 9:29 PM on May 10, 2007

One company paid me the bonus after I quit, but it was a little lower than I would have expected. The other one didn't pay, but, then again, they also tried to get away with not issuing my final pay cheque after I quit. (I did get the final pay, though.)
posted by acoutu at 9:31 PM on May 10, 2007

if I give notice and leave before June 1st, am I still entitled to this bonus?

Maybe. It really depends on what is spelled out in your work agreement. Additionally it depends on what type of personal capital you've built at this company. If they like you then they are less likely to press the issue, if you're a nobody then expect to get the run around regarding your bonus.

How can I find out without potentially spilling the beans that I'm leaving?

Several ways. You can ask discreetly around your HR department... although this may still raise alarms (HR people are the scum of the earth IMHO and spend their time either trying to absurdly justify their existences or trading in gossip with those in power.) Its a stretch but you could also anonymously address the question to your HR and stipulate in the communication that you're doing so out of fear of loosing your job before the fact...

if I give 2 weeks notice in such a way that my last day is after June 1st, can the company terminate me in less than 2 weeks so that I don't get my bonus?

If you live in a state (particularly a red state) which has allowed private industry lobbyists to write their employment laws (under the guise of a "right to work" policy) then you can probably be fired on a whim without any explanation at any given moment regardless of whatever future wages are promised to you.

In the end your options are both limited and risky no matter your course. Your only sure fire option for grabbing your bonus is holding out until June and then ditching the job. Really, June isn't that far away and if the bonus money is large enough you should just tough it out... there is no sure fire way to either inquire or exit gracefully while insuring your bonus.
posted by wfrgms at 9:33 PM on May 10, 2007

if I give notice and leave before June 1st, am I still entitled to this bonus?

I've been at several game companies with bonus structures, and if it wasn't specifically a part of the contract, any bonus came at the caveat that you must be employed at time the bonus is delivered. If you leave, you won't get it. If you give notice, the company may rescind your employment on the spot ("Thanks, but we don't need the two weeks after all. Adios, muchacho."), which would also prevent you from getting the bonus.

Just keep in mind that the bonus is likely not a reward for past performance, although it may seem that way. The bonus is an incentive to stick around and work hard and collect more bonuses in the future. So, if you're clearly not sticking around ... there's no reason for the company to encourage you to stay.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:34 PM on May 10, 2007

nthing what others have said. If you're expecting a good bonus, stick it out for a few more weeks and give notice after it's been paid.
posted by essexjan at 10:28 PM on May 10, 2007

In an employment at will environment they can fire you at any time for any reason.
posted by magikker at 11:28 PM on May 10, 2007

would it be safest to not give notice at all until June 1st?

Dude. Wait until the check clears. And you better not use Direct Deposit.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:44 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

How spooky. I work for a very large game company that issues bonuses on June 1st! :) With that in mind (I can guess where else you might be if you don't work for the same place as me), I am also going to assume you are in California, which is an at-will state.

I would strongly recommend that you wait until June 1st to hand in your notice. Your bonus is probably discretionary. If it's large and not discretionary then they will probably tell you not to work out your two weeks (and not give you the bonus), and remember that game companies are generally pretty mercenary about everything employment-related, especially bonuses, royalties and overtime. Stick it out, its only a few weeks.
posted by Joh at 12:23 AM on May 11, 2007

I'm going to diverge a bit and point out that if waiting for the bonus means putting the new job in jeopardy, then don't feel dumb about leaving before the bonus and moving on to the new opportunity (unless we're talking about some major cash here and a significant percentage of your yearly salary). It sounds like you aren't too happy at the current company, and no amount of bonus money is worth risking a better job at a better company.

That said, if you can wait and you'll definitely be able to go to the new job June 15, then wait for the cash.
posted by incessant at 2:34 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal about getting screwed by HR - the large IT corporation I worked at (an American company, but UK based) offered voluntary redundancy to people in my department, which many of us went for. One of my colleagues who accepted the offer had another job lined up to start immediately after his leaving date. He was on bad terms with a number of people (long story, but the usual petty office politics) and was rather indiscreet about his new job. Word got to HR, and his VR compensation package offer (c. £15,000) was withdrawn. He left without getting a penny.

I would be incredibly cautious about how you raise this, and if you want to be sure of getting the bonus I nth keeping your mouth shut until the money is in your account. Based on mine and my colleagues experiences, I would not trust anything the HR dept. of a large company tells you (no offence intended to people working in HR), and not provide any opportunities for whatever payments are coming your way to be withheld.

Also, in practice you may not be required to work a notice period - large companies often want rid of you as soon as possible after you state your intention to leave (I assume in case you suddenly turn into a kleptomaniac or cyber-vandal).
posted by boosh at 3:13 AM on May 11, 2007

Anecdotal: I quit a job once, with two weeks notice, one week before bonuses were to be paid. (Yes, yes, but I had to quit then, so as to be able to start the next job.) And you can guess it: they said: ok, never mind the two weeks business, you are done as of today, bye, don't let the door hit you on the way out. No bonus, of course, either.

So if the bonus is big enough, and your new job will allow you to start a bit later, definitely don't give notice until after you have that bonus in the bank. But even then, be prepared for someone to say something about how quitting right after the bonus is "being a bad team player" or some such nonsense.
posted by Forktine at 4:12 AM on May 11, 2007

I know that with my leave loading, which is paid around Christmas every year, I don't get it if I'm not working there in the pay period within which it gets paid out. But then every workplace probably has different policies. I would recommend what a few others have said and play it safe but if you really must go now, I second the suggestion of calling an HR person from an outside phone (preferably not your home or mobile phone... maybe a pay phone or something) and asking that way. With a muffled voice, if possible.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:58 AM on May 11, 2007

The safest thing as everybody pretty much said is to wait till you get your bonus to quit. Any bonus program I've been part of has included a contract which went into detail about the bonus program. My present one, as an example, includes statements that if I resign before the official bonus period my bonus will be prorated.
posted by substrate at 5:52 AM on May 11, 2007

This completely depends on how the bonus program is written. Sometimes bonuses "accrue" on a certain day and are paid out later. For instance, in my company, to get the 401(k) match you have to be employed on December 31. The money doesn't come until March. But you'd get it in March as long as you were employed on December 31. The policy clearly states this. Our actual bonuses are different - they never "accrue", so you have to be employed the day they are paid. So while people who are saying you should stay are correct that this is the safest method, it might not be the only method. Since you know that a bonus is coming, it sounds like there is a policy. Read it carefully.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:01 AM on May 11, 2007

I had this exact issue last year as I was preparing to leave one company for another. It ended up not mattering because my departure was delayed until after the bonuses had been paid anyway. But I did find the terms of the bonus program very clearly spelled out in the employee handbook (which was a website, not a book). In my case, the policy clearly stated that the bonus would be paid to anyone who was employed at the end of the calendar year and had a completed evaluation for that calendar year, even though the money itself wasn't paid until March or so.

Realistically, who got how much bonus money wasn't calculated until March or so, either, and there was manager discretion in there, so had I left before bonuses were paid, I would have fully expected to get the lowest possible amount for my evaluation grade, since my manager would have wanted to direct more money toward people who were actually staying but as a matter of policy, it shouldn't have made a difference.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:16 AM on May 11, 2007

I'm going to diverge a bit and point out that if waiting for the bonus means putting the new job in jeopardy, then don't feel dumb about leaving before the bonus and moving on to the new opportunity

This bears repeating. I've walked away from bonuses on multiple occasions; you get over it.
posted by mkultra at 7:15 AM on May 11, 2007

At my large company, if you are not employed on the day the bonus is paid out, you don't get it. Even if you were employed every single day of the prior year, which would have been the time period that the bonus covered. Always sounded totally illegal to me, but I suppose bonuses are optional and they clearly state this fact everywhere, so what can you do?
posted by peep at 8:48 AM on May 11, 2007

I'd wait to give notice until after the bonus hit my bank account.

Me too. Seriously.
posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on May 11, 2007

If delaying your start date is a problem for the new company, then you have a negotiation point - tell them you can start earlier than June 1 if they make you whole with a signing bonus (or better yet try to bump up your new salary).
posted by yarrow at 9:22 AM on May 11, 2007

I second yarrow. I'm a recruiter, and if one of my candidates was faced with losing a sizable bonus if they left, which was paid out in a reasonably short amount of time in proximity to the desired start date of the new employer, i would try and negotiate something with the new employer in the form of a sign-on bonus or something. i've had success with the "keeping whole" language that Yarrow used also.
posted by Soulbee at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2007

Ahh, the gaming industry. I worked for "a large game company" (probably the same one), and I worked with someone who gave notice on the day bonuses were given out. They canceled the check. Yeah, it's petty, but that's how they do things.

If it's the company I think it is, the bonus is probably substantial (it's their way of trying to make up for the less-than-stellar pay), but I doubt it's worth ruining a new job for. It's up to you if the money is worth it (did you get a bonus last year? Or can you ask friends how much it will be?), but if you give notice before the check is cleared, you won't get the money.

On preview: using it as a negotiation point with the new company is a good idea.
posted by Sibrax at 10:55 AM on May 11, 2007

Our compensation letters (which are handed out about 3 weeks before bonuses are paid) specifically state that the employee must be employed by the company at time of payment. This is pretty standard. Nthing all the other posters up there - if you can wait, wait.
posted by widdershins at 10:58 AM on May 11, 2007

Might your new employer understand if you tell them "I'll lose my X,000 dollars bonus if I leave before June 2nd"?
posted by Megafly at 11:06 AM on May 11, 2007

n'thing the above...
Everywhere I've been, the bonus was purely discretionary. At a certain point your manager is told to determine your bonus, but that number can change all the way up to the check being cut.
This means that even if the company is legally obligated to give you a bonus, it'll be the smallest amount possible if you leave before the check is cut. This would be why there are certain months on Wall street when everyone switches jobs, none of us are going to jeopardize our bonuses.

I'd bring it up to the new company, see if there is anything they can do to make you whole, or allow you to wait.
posted by niteHawk at 11:29 AM on May 11, 2007

I work in finance, not gaming, but ... if the bonus is worth the wait, nth'ing the 'do not resign until it hits your bank account'. Heard enough bonus clusterfuck stories to last a lifetime. You’re much safer assuming you won’t get it and maybe receiving a nice surprise than assuming you will and getting shafted.

Even if you think you’re ‘legally’ entitled, if things don't end well you’ll have to take - or at least credibly threaten - legal action to enforce that entitlement. In all cases the companies' resources will dwarf yours, so you turn a slamdunk into a david v goliath battle. Yeah you'll win, but you'll exhaust yourself in the process. And that process could take years.

Also agree the comments regarding a sign-on bonus at the new shop; tell them about the delay and the reasons for it and that you’d like to start earlier if possible. Don’t push the idea of a sign-on unless you’re indispensible – if they want you early, they’ll put it to you. If you’re getting pressure from them to commit to an earlier date without the sign-on to compensate, then suggest they cover your risk. If they want / need you bad enough, they’ll pony up; if they don’t, they won’t, and you can wait it out.

Personally, I always found the ‘extra’ pre-resignation time kinda enjoyable, given you had this unknowable secret to walk around with everyday and could unwind / relax a little before the transition. It helped thinking of the extra six weeks or so as being paid huge – not just your salary, but a yearly bonus for 40 days of your time. The satisfaction when it all hits the bank account and you can officially check out is a significant emotional / financial payoff and well worth the wait.
posted by bookie at 9:30 AM on May 12, 2007

« Older Opening a PDF from a Flash projector?   |   Lilacs delivered to Atlanta by Monday? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.