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Commissions due after leaving company in Massachusetts

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  • Commissions due after leaving company in Massachusetts

    Hello, I worked in sales for a magazine out of an office in Boston (company also has an office in FLA). The position had a base salary with commissions for sales produced. The commissions would only be paid when a client paid which was 30 Days after the magazine was published. If a client was sold on a 4 issue commitment (a quarterly magazine) in most cases the full value of the commission would not be paid for at least a year.

    My question is if I left the company on my own volition and was not terminated, should I be paid on the commissions for sales made even though I was not an employee at the time the earnings from clients were received?

    The company does not have any policy in writing, nor did I sign any type of contract. I was paid on a bi-weekly basis and as clients paid their invoices commissions would be paid along with the regular bi-weekly checks.

    I appreciate any feedback, Thanks - Andy

  • #2
    As of the last time I dealt with commissioned sales in MA, the law was that you would be owed commission for any sales you COMPLETED, regardless of the date the client paid or whether you were an employee on the day commissions were generally paid. The company would have no obligation to you for any sales you may have begun, but were completed by someone else after you left.

    Please note that the last time I dealt with commission sales in MA (or any other state, for that matter) was spring of 2000. It is not impossible that the law may have changed since then. Phil?
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      MA law regarding commissions can be somewhat complicated. The leading case was decided in 1995 and states that commissions are considered "wages" when the amount of such commissions "has been definitely determined and has become due and payable to such employee."

      The question in a case like the one you presented will probably come down to proving, with no written policy, that the commissions were "definitely determined and has become due and payable". Nevertheless, just because the commissions aren't wages does not mean that the employee isn't entitled to them. It just means that she'll have to do so on a theory of contract instead of wages, and then she can't get treble damages, attorneys fees and costs of litigation. In that case, it'll have to be a lot of commissions before a lawyer could take the case. Most likely the employee would have to file her claim on her own in small claims court.

      Phil
      This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

      This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

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      • #4
        Thanks you very much for your input.

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        • #5
          Small Claims Court

          Similar situation as above.

          My question is - if I worked in MA for a company based in NJ and I wanted to file in small claim court - what/where court would I file in? MA? NJ?

          What if the amount of commissions is over 15k? Is that still small claims?

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          • #6
            I think you'd have to file in NJ. Google "small claims in New Jersey" for more info.
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by klancy View Post
              What if the amount of commissions is over 15k? Is that still small claims?
              Not in my state.
              Senior Professional in Human Resources and Certified Staffing Professional with over 30 years experience. Any advice provided is based upon experience and education, but does not constitute legal advice.

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              • #8
                The max. amt. you can sue for in small claims court in NJ is $3,000. (Ma. is even less at $2,000.)
                Last edited by Betty3; 06-11-2008, 04:17 PM.
                Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

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                • #9
                  You might consider filing in Massachusetts, as that's where you work, and presumably its easier for you to get to a court here, as opposed to NJ. For claims of that size, you'd file in a Massachusetts District Court (as opposed to Superior Ct. or Small Claims). Before filing, though, you'll need to consider whether to file a non-payment of wages complaint with the attorney general. That complaint is found on the mass.gov website, and is a prerequisite to filing any non-payment of wages complaint under the Wage Act. Lastly, if you win, you might be able to get triple damages, too.
                  This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

                  This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

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