Is it illegal to pay someone to hire me? How about receiving money in exchange for hiring someone? Does this fall under criminal charges, and would it be considered bribery?

In this hypothetical situation, this occurs in a private company. For example, suppose I pay someone to hire my son in their engineering firm. Are there any U.S. laws that would prevent me from doing so? To the best of my knowledge, only New York explicitly prohibits this type of action, which would be considered commercial bribery, but I'm not entirely sure.

  • This is an extremely broad question... May 10, 2020 at 23:27
  • Money going to the company may have a different answer than money in the pocket of the hiring manager. May 10, 2020 at 23:56
  • 1
    Legality aside, there is a question of what sense this would make in case of at-will employment: you pay, they hire and the next day the fire. What would you do, sue them? lol
    – Greendrake
    May 11, 2020 at 6:16
  • Most companies would fire both the employee who took money and the new employee.
    – gnasher729
    May 11, 2020 at 6:22
  • @Greendrake Maybe the OP hopes his son will retain the job long enough; after all if the bribed person is not the manager he would have to explain why he wants the new employee he just did chose to be fired (and it is not as if he could say "I accepted some money to hire him"). Also it could be part of a fraud; what the OP would be after could be not actual employment but a document stating that his son has a job, that could be used to get a loan, a visa...
    – SJuan76
    May 11, 2020 at 7:34

3 Answers 3


These are both bribery

Bribery is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official, or other person, in charge of a public or legal duty.

The crime exists in the common law even if it is not codified by statute in a particular jurisdiction.

If the person you pay to hire your son is under a legal duty to the employer (e.g. is an employee or agent) then what you are both engaging in is bribery. However, if the person you pay is the employer (i.e. if the "engineering firm" is a company then the payment is made to that company) then the payment is not bribery.

However, if the payment is made by or behalf of an employee (as it almost certainly is) then it is likely (almost certain) that the payment breaches employment law because, broadly speaking, employers are not entitled to payment from employees - the money has to flow the other way.

  • 3
    How is hiring at a private company related to a "public or legal duty."? May 11, 2020 at 20:12
  • 1
    The hiring manager would have a legal duty towards his employer. If he doesn’t hire the best candidate but someone far less suitable who hands him $1,000 then he is cheating the company.
    – gnasher729
    May 14, 2020 at 20:40
  • @GeorgeWhite stated in the first sentence of the 3rd paragraph
    – Dale M
    May 14, 2020 at 21:07
  • I see no duty to the actual PUBLIC in this scenario unless the employer is a government entity. Also from a Blacks Law ref. What is LEGAL DUTY? An obligation arising from contract of the parties or the operation of the law. Riddell v. Ventilating Co., 27 Mont. 44, 69 Pac. 241. That which the law requires to be done or forborne to a determinate person or the public at large, correlative to a vested and coextensive right in such person or the public, and the breach of which constitutes negligence. May 15, 2020 at 2:16
  • @GeorgeWhite an employee has a legal duty to their employer and vice versa by virtue of the employment contract
    – Dale M
    May 15, 2020 at 3:38

Are there any U.S. laws that would prevent me from doing so?

Yes. The prohibition is on the employer's end.

There are various jurisdictions with a statute similar to MCL 408.478 prohibiting the employer, its agent, etc. to demand or receive a fee, or other remuneration or consideration as a condition of employment. The NY equivalent is section § 198-B of NY Labor Law:

[I]t shall be unlawful for [the employer] to request, demand, or receive, either before or after such employee is engaged, a return [...] or other thing of value, upon the statement, representation, or understanding that failure to comply with such request or demand will prevent such employee from procuring or retaining employment.

(emphasis added)

  • So is this a state-by-state issue then?
    – Anon
    May 11, 2020 at 21:41
  • @Anon Yes, and many (if not all) states have adopted a similar approach as to what conduct is sanctioned. The major difference among legislations might be the method of enforcement. For instance, in some jurisdictions there might be a duty to "exhaust administrative remedies" prior to filing suit, in other jurisdictions this might be optional, and in others there might not be administrative remedies at all. May 11, 2020 at 21:48

I can imagine several instances where it would be reasonable and legally defendable, I.e. not illegal in that the judge must acquit.

For instance, my company makes the fiber spitter that can make N95 mask filter material, and you frantically ordered 100 of them for next week. We can build them, but we need your operational supervisors to take a 4-month course on operating the machines, because it isn't simple and you can destroy the machines if you do not know what you are doing. So in lieu of that, I require you to take 2 of my engineers.

For many years, it was SOP for IBM to allow and encourage their large customers to hire their engineers away. This was one strategy IBM used both to keep their "no layoffs" record perfect, and of course the people they nudged out the door were marginal performers or frustrated with the IBM culture. So this created a very happy ending, cementing brand loyalty with both the engineer and the customer.

As a nonprofit grant issuer, I get to have a say in who exactly you hire for that executive director position I am funding.

So this kind of "backroom deal" is not unusual at all.

However, in general, the employer has an EEOC problem. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). If a qualified applicant feels that they were passed up on account of their gender, race, religion and certain other protected classes, then the employer needs to show that was not the case. Nepotism complicates that, although nepotism alone is not a violation of EEO law. Just like you can't refuse housing to a qualified black person, but you can refuse housing to a qualified black person if you moved your cousin in instead. Here enters the "Where's the victim?" question: now you have an aggrieved party coming at you, and you must at least grind through the case.

  • 1
    I do not think identifying a victim is a binary way to determine if a criminal law exists. There are many crimes where one might have a hard time identifying a victim. May 11, 2020 at 20:16
  • If the hiring manager takes bribes then both the company and the employee are very easily identifiable victims.
    – gnasher729
    May 14, 2020 at 20:44
  • @gnasher729 yeah, people really hate that first paragraph. It's not my thesis, so, gone. May 14, 2020 at 22:19

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