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New York’s Highest Court Upholds Oral Promise of Guaranteed Bonus

By:  John F. Fullerton III

The New York Court of Appeals recently upheld a jury verdict in favor of a brokerage firm employee who claimed that his employer breached an oral promise (and violated New York wage law) when it failed to pay him a guaranteed bonus of $175,000, to be paid at the end of his first year of employment.  The discussions with the hiring manager regarding compensation were not put in writing.  Nevertheless, the employee subsequently signed an acknowledgment in the formal employment application that  “compensation and benefits are at will and can be terminated, with or without cause or notice, at any time” at the discretion of the employer or the employee.  He was discharged after less than two years of employment, and had not been paid the full $175,000 he claimed to be owed.

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