All of the following answers presume that 'the employee' signed something in the raft of paperwork required to obtain the reimbursement expressly stating the conditions of repayment. It also presumes that the education or training was not a requirement of the job, but was merely personal enrichment falling within the guidelines of the company's tuition reimbursement policy.
Jopaz wrote:- Is the policy legally enforceable?
On what grounds do you question that it might not be?
Jopaz wrote:- If the policy has been "sporadically" enforced (i.e. not try to collect from everyone who left), does that weaken the company's position?
Again.... why is this being questioned? Unless there is a questionable pattern to the sporadic enforcement (say, they only seek repayment from black females), there's no reason why going after x but not going after y makes y less on the hook for the agreement they signed.
Jopaz wrote:- My understanding is that this cannot legally be witheld from the employee's final paycheck or unused vacation/sick time payments, is this correct?
In CA, employment law states that employers cannot set off debts between the company and a departing employee by withholding pay. But that's not universally the case. If PA does not have this restriction, I think they can withhold every dollar over minimum wage represented in the vacation time payout. For example, say you, er the employee has two full weeks of vacation time to cash out. At 40 hrs a week, that's $580. But if you're salaried at $40k/yr, two weeks (before tax) is just over $1,500. So that's about $1,000 that's presumably up for grabs upon separation.
Jopaz wrote:- Since the employee does not actually have the money (he spent it on the tuition), is it reasonable to set up a payment plan? Then what happens if the employee does not meet the payments?
Sure, it's reasonable. But I it's not required. Again, you'll
the employee will have to review their reimbursement docs for the conditions of repayment.
Jopaz wrote:- In general, what recourse, if any, does the company have after the employee leaves?
Collection agency. Lawsuit.... and few things in the world makes you more attractive to potential employers like having your former employer sue you. And by more, I mean less.