Legal Question in Employment Law in Missouri

My employer offers an education program in which they will pay tuition for their employees to earn an associates or bachelors degree in exchange for the agreement to continue employment as repayment in the amount of 1 month per 2 credit hours. They also benefit these employees with a 5% raise after completion of the associates degree and 10% for the bachelors degree. When I entered into this agreement 4 years ago, these were the stipulations listed in our employment manual, but I just found out some disturbing news after receiving my bachelors degree 2 weeks ago. Two years ago, they revised the manual and although they kept the repayment through employment part of the program the same, they had suddenly changed the raises to 6% and 3%. My question is, should these lower amounts only apply to those hired after the revision date, and should my percentage of raise be grandfathered in at what it was at the time I entered into the agreement and started the education program? If I am given the lesser amount, wouldn't this be considered breach of contract on their part?

Asked on 1/16/12, 11:06 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jonathan D. McDowell McDowell & McDowell, LLC
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The answer to this question depends on how the agreement and employee manual were drafted. Poorly drafted employment manuals can be construed by courts as employment agreements but most will probably state the manual can change at any time at the employer's discretion without informing the employee.

Even if that IS the case, I think the bottom line will be if you signed an agreement for the reimbursements. Because you finished your bachelor's, and you relied on the agreement before the change, you have a good case for a promissory estoppel argument based in contract law.

Realistically, the only way this will probaby be remedied is if you hire an attorney to negotiate or sue.

Hope this helps,

Jonathan

Read more
2/06/12, 12:53 pm

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