How Do I Get My Tuition Reimbursement?

Question:

I currently work for a large company, and they have just announced a policy change to their tuition reimbursement policy. The previous policy paid 100% of books and tuition. They have now decided that if you want to take part in this benefit, you have to agree to a one year retention policy if you use this benefit as of January 1, 2006. This was announced mid-October 2005. My question is that the current fall semester in 2005 ends December 16th, 2005 that I am told is past the financial year-end deadline of December 9th, 2005. This means that the classes I am taking this fall will count as being taking in 2006 and the retention policy will be applied to me.

Can they legally change this policy if it affects me and the benefits that I have already used? The last day to withdraw from the fall semester was August 20th, 2005 that was before they announced the change so I was not ever given a chance to decide if I wanted to accept the new terms or not. I would assume that if a benefit is given and the employee already used it based on the original terms then they cannot change the terms attached to it. This seems like a bait and switch tactic that is a form of fraud being they gave me a benefit to use and after use they decided to change their mind and tell me I now owe them a year service or I will have to repay them. Thanks for you help

Signed,

Baited


Answer:

Dear Baited:

Before you get things in a knot, just remember this, it’s a benefit, not a RIGHT! OK?? They can take away ANY BENEFIT at any time if they want. This is why it’s called a benefit. Secondly, did you ask the HR Mgr to resolve your dilemma? Try asking, it might clear things up. Don’t waste your time on legal assistance – you don’t have any legal standing and your lawyer will charge you more than the tuition costs and his/her fees are not paid by the company but by you. Good luck and remember, you don’t have any right to be upset so be careful what you say or ask. Take care.

Couple personal concerns with an organizational perspective. That’s thinking WEGO. More: Yes, the promise was made in writing, in the form of an email and the personnel manual does not have an answer for this contingency before actual graduation. After questioning the rationale for withholding the check and letting my employer know I was being “encouraged to seek legal advice,” but not that I was doing so, I was told my letter was threatening and that I would not be given the opportunity to continue employment because of the inquiry into the tuition reimbursement. This is something my mother had warned me might happen, given the company’s earlier unethical actions. Although I was told we were parting on friendly terms, I was ushered out of the building shortly after delivering my letter of inquiry, asking for the rationale in writing. I am now in the process of filing for unemployment (I had 3 weeks and 3 days left of employment I was counting on after giving a month’s notice at the bidding of my office manager, whom I like and would not have wanted to leave high and dry), and I will most likely send a certified letter to the leading partner in the company, perhaps with a letter from a lawyer.

Dan Kearney