Article #4 From the "What If ..." Library on Salary Negotiation

What If ...

I Got a Signing Bonus but Now Want to Quit 
Five months ago, Dan's present employer paid him a nice fat signing bonus to entice him to join the company. Although it seemed like a great opportunity at the time, it was a big mistake. The job has turned out to be a bore. He isn't challenged, his boss is incompetent, and he doesn't like his coworkers.
A couple weeks ago, a friend set him up with an interview for a position that seems like a great fit. The company offered him the job, and Dan is ready to move-but, there's that problem of the signing bonus. Dan wondered if he would have to repay it. Unfortunately for Dan, the answer is probably so. It depends on the terms agreed to, but generally items an employer gives to attract a new employee, including signing bonuses, moving allowances and relocation bonuses, are contingent upon staying with the company for a given period of time.
When Dan checked the agreement, he saw that he had agreed to stay for a year. Fortunately, Dan does have another option other than staying for the full year or repaying the bonus himself. When he negotiates with his new employer, he could explain the situation and request that they pay all or part of the bonus to reimburse him for the cost of accepting their offer.
Depending upon how badly the new company wants Dan, they may agree. If, instead of quitting, you get fired, than there's no obligation to pay back a signing bonus or relocation, etc., It's important to read any agreements about that type of thing. Because it's the beginning of what each of you hopes will be a dream job, looking at quitting or being fired is not very exciting, but that's the time, not later, that you want to get it straight. Use a lawyer and negotiate now for favorable terms, not later.