Leaving firm after 8 years and being asked to reimburse registration, AIA dues for the year


Is this a common practice?  I'm being asked to reimburse registration fees and AIA dues for the remainder of the current annual term (mostly thru December).  It's "only" $700, but it seems like poor form.  The personnel handbook only mentions repaying of "professional association dues", but I feel like NCARB & state licensure fees fall outside of that scope.  Thoughts? 

May 21, 19 5:46 pm

that is sad and hilarious.

May 21, 19 5:57 pm

No, it is not common practice. Furthermore, as a person who gets heckled for having changed jobs MANY times, I've never seen a firm try to claw back this type of benefit.  It just isn't done, and shouldn't be.    In any case, NCARB and license fees are absolutely not "association dues", they are registration board fees. 

Occasionally, I've had to eat a year of association dues for people who quit or were fired.  Sure, it hurts, but the alternative feels very chickensh*t.

May 21, 19 5:59 pm

Do you need their recommendation? In many places by law they cannot shit on you if a future potential employer calls. If you don't need their happy thoughts, tell them no and move on.

May 21, 19 6:07 pm

NCARB and license are professional credentials and presumably the firm was billing you at a higher rate because you had them.  It is certainly a chicken shit amount in any event, and they ought to be embarrassed, but probably aren't.  It's just one more example of what a low rent profession this is.

May 21, 19 6:19 pm

I have another job lined up but I thought the breakup until this point was very amicable, even when giving my two weeks to the PIC who mentored me through much of my time here.  

Pettiness level 10 from here on out it seems.

May 21, 19 6:22 pm

Say a loud "FU" to them and move on.

May 21, 19 6:32 pm

It's very unusual.  And obnoxious.  It's very petty but if things have been amicable otherwise then they may just be very tone-deaf about it and see it as just policy, not intending it to read punitively.

Since there is a written policy, I would say NCARB does fall into the category of "professional association".  License fees are a stretch though - I wouldn't call a state department a "professional association". 
You could try to fight it:  report it to your state's Department of Labor and see whether they find that it fits into the category of illegally docking wages for business expenses (this is a little tricky - businesses can't dock your last check for things like mistakes that cost them money, or equipment that you break accidentally, but they can take reimbursement for some things paid on your behalf, especially if they clearly spell out the policy).  But, if things have been amicable to this point and you want to keep it that way then pursuing that would likely tip that balance.

May 21, 19 7:28 pm
( o Y o )

You should state the name of the firm as a public service. This kind of nonsense should be widely publicized, like unpaid internships. 

May 21, 19 8:36 pm

State the name, and tell them to fuck off. Let them try and take it back, because if the withhold from your pay tell them you'll sue their ass, report them to the AIA, and generally fuck them hard on Glassdoor.

May 21, 19 9:00 pm

When they hire your replacement and he has paid his own dues through December will your current firm give him the $700 payment? I didn't think so. They apparently feel they need your permission to do this. I would not give them verbal permission to do so or sign ANYTHING without looking it over carefully. I would just ignore their request unless they bring it up again and just tell them "No" politely. 

May 21, 19 9:23 pm

I was asked to pay back all my licensing test reimbursement costs, but it was explicitly spelled out in the employee handbook that if you left within a year of them paying for a test, you had to pay them back. Still shitty, but as it was in the handbook not really contestable.

If they pay out your PTO, they will probably just take it out of that and you'll have to make a huge deal about it in order to keep that $700.

May 22, 19 8:33 am

You have to decide whether you want to go to war over $700.00.  Probably not worth it, except for the principle.  I'm definitely on board with blabbing this story around town AFTER you are safely ensconced in the new gig.

It's another reminder of Henry Kissinger (yes, really) who said that Harvard faculty politics were vicious because there was so little at stake.

May 22, 19 8:48 am
On the fence

Take the high road, pay it and move on.  Make sure your coworkers know about what they can expect too.  Politely.

May 22, 19 10:02 am

Take 700$ in pennies...Follow rule, but fuck them at same time.  

May 22, 19 11:09 am
won and done williams

Ignore it and make them take action. They won't.

May 22, 19 11:12 am
( o Y o )

What will you do if they withhold it from your final check? Sounds like that is what they are prepping you for.

May 22, 19 11:45 am

About 2 months after leaving a job a few years back I got an email from their payroll accounts manager - this was a big corporate branch office - they had overpaid me on my last paycheck by roughly $18 dollars and she hoped I could reimburse them.

I actually did. I was in the office that week meeting my old boss to chat and didn't want to make a fuss when she waved me down. I gave her exact change and insisted on a receipt.

If it's their policy and it's strictly enforced, well that's petty but not outrageous. I'd try to bargain with them on something else you want and just move on.

May 22, 19 11:52 am

I agree this is petty, but probably not worth the fight (I wouldn't go out of your way to write them a check, but if $700 is missing from your last check, I wouldn't fight it). Definitely worth spreading the word about it to colleagues and anyone who wants to listen though. If I was a prospective employee for this firm, I'd want to know this. It may not affect my decision to accept an offer, but it would be good to know going into the process.

May 22, 19 12:02 pm

If the handbook spells out "professional association dues" then those are very specifically NOT registration fees. Keeping your state licensure and NCARB fees current are requirements of working as a registered architect; AIA is a voluntary membership organization. 

If you feel like fighting it then use this argument (their handbook is the textbook example of how people frequently misuse the phrase "The exception makes the rule"). In this case, they specifically stated that you would have to pay back "professional association dues" so those dues are the exception to the fact that you *do not* have to pay back the other costs not explicitly stated. 

May 22, 19 12:37 pm

To add some more specificity to the discussion, here is the excerpt in question:

10.1 Professional Registration
[redacted] supports staff's efforts to achieve professional registration, including approved time off, study materials, seminars/workshops, and reimbursement of associated expenses.
See Appendix C

10.2 Professional Association Dues
Professional staff is encouraged to actively participate in professional activities. The firm will assist in AIA application fees, annual dues, and other professional organization dues. Active participation is a requirement of the firm for payment of dues. Additionally, if you separate from your employment with [redacted] you will be personally responsible to return to [redacted] the unused portion of dues paid on your behalf.

May 22, 19 12:45 pm

I'm not a lawyer but I don't see how 10.2 applies to NCARB or state registration fees.

Also it seems to go without saying that the reference to "unused portion" means the amount you owe back doesn't include the almost six months of this year that you *have* been an employee.

Can you cancel your AIA membership and get the dues back from AIA? If not, all your dues have been used, no?


Did they threaten to take away your birthday while they were at it? 

May 22, 19 1:33 pm

I find the “It’s just [x] dollars” argument to be hypocritical. If it’s not that big of an issue to pay that amount then it shouldn’t be an issue to not receive that amount.

I wouldn’t pay it and would at least look into reporting the employer if the amount is withheld from your final paycheck (although prior experience in reporting an employer didn’t actually go anywhere). And definitely wouldn’t be shy about sharing the name.

May 22, 19 1:43 pm

So far, they are requesting to claw back 7 of the 12 months of AIA dues since I'm not quite staying the full month of May.  Also, they want a full year's licensure fee, even though it renewed in mid-March.

May 22, 19 2:43 pm

If you join AIA in the middle of the year, they only prorate their dues quarterly. If they insist, I'd take the same approach and only agree to at most 6 months dues. Nowhere in the information you posted does it indicate that professional registration fees are to be paid back when you leave. If they stated it for the professional association fees, they would need to state it for licensure as well.


I tend to agree. As it appears, the verbiage in the manual really only puts me on the hook for the AIA dues, even though they are extending the meaning to include registration fees through their request, which is at odds with their own personnel manual.

atelier nobody

It's cheesy as hell, but if it's in the manual, it's in the manual. Consider it the price of buying your freedom from the place, and money well spent.

May 22, 19 6:45 pm

I did work at a place that reimbursed you for your (one successful) ARE, but only if you stayed at least a year after

so, I could see where that came back at someone if they had asked for test reimbursement and then decided to leave...

the professional assoc dues (though certainly expensive) seems dickish

May 22, 19 7:33 pm

All this is an example of why not to place much value on any differed compensation or "perqs".  Get it in straight salary and then pay your own damned dues and registration fees.  Ditto for those (not too many architects) who work at lower current salaries with palmy pension promises in the future.  You may never see it.

May 22, 19 9:50 pm

You do what anyone else would do. 

May 22, 19 11:53 pm

Called the DOL and Texas Workforce Commission this morning - they both referred me to the other party.  Would like to go in only paying the AIA dues since that is consistent with the wording in the manual, but would like some legal backing to do so before I go in.  Since the difference in what they're requesting and what I'll be writing a check for is ~$250, it's not going to make sense to go the traditional route through an attorney - has anyone had any luck getting legal advice through some of the online sites?  I realize you get what you pay for, but we're not talking about shooting for the moon here.

May 23, 19 11:06 am

In reading your original post I assumed they were threatening to dock this from your last paycheck. If it's a situation where they've already paid you and they're asking for a check from you, then you're in a much better position - because their only recourse if they really want to nickle and dime you on this would be to take you to small claims court, and that's certainly not going to be worth their time. If they really continue to press the issue, you might mention that you consulted the DOL and Texas Workforce Commission (which is true) - you don't have to mention that the two bounced you back and forth.  They'll probably drop it then, as a DOL investigation poses the threat of huge fines and years worth of repayments.

Sure, you could pay an online lawyer to give you a 2-sentence opinion, but I wouldn't waste the money on that. If I were you I'd just write the check for the amount of the AIA dues - because that was clearly in the employee manual so (despite the pettiness of it) they'd made that rule clear. The NCARB dues are iffier - NCARB is technically a professional association - but one whose only members are the state boards themselves. Your NCARB fees aren't professional association dues, they're record-keeping fees. Licensing dues definitely aren't professional association dues. Just give them back their $250 and ignore further demands from them, unless they take you to court. They can revise their employee manual to better take advantage of future victims, but you didn't agree to and were not informed of a policy to repay anything but the AIA dues.


You're investing way too much thought and time on $250.00. Either pay them the money and move on, or tell them to pound sand.

liberty bell

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