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  • CA: contact DLSE? California

    I've worked for two and a half years for a family-owned company in CA. I do outside sales. When I was hired, my boss and I agreed on a commission schedule that would pay me very little in salary but a commission plan that would pay handsomely if I worked hard/got lucky.

    The first year was tough, I did not make the kind of money I would have hoped for. The second year got better. Finally I hit the ball out of the park, closing an account I've worked on since I started this job. The commissions from this account alone are significant. The account purchases monthly on a net 30 basis. Commissions are payable once the revenue is collected.

    The account started purchasing July 1. By August 15 or so, the books for July were closed and I started working on my commission report. I submitted it to my boss last Friday. Today is payday, and the revenue from this account was cut in half. My boss sent me an email before I got my check saying that he'd made some "adjustments" and that we could meet in the afternoon. When I got back from lunch his office was dark. I called him and got his voice mail. I left a message saying I was ready to meet with him. He sent me an email saying that he'd cut the commission rate on that account by half, citing a company policy of not paying commissions at all on government accounts that are put out to bid. I've never heard of this policy, I've reviewed my offer letter and commission schedule, and our employee handbook. I've not found any mention of this policy, and I currently receive my full commission on two other government accounts that were put out to bid.

    I've responded to his email, and I said that I disagreed with his "adjustment". I'm wondering what to do next. If I know him like I think I do, he just won't respond to it. But what he's done is illegal, is it not? We have a written agreement, and my at-will status means he can change any part of that or all of it from today forward, but he can't deny me money earned in July, or can he? My fear is that if I make a big deal of this he will retaliate against me by renegotiating my entire deal.

    Here's my main question. Is the CA Labor Commissioner a good move for me? I'm thinking that if I file a wage claim, it puts me in a protected class that will discourage him from demoting me or changing my deal. It would infuriate my boss. How long will it protect me? If he retaliates against me two years from now, will I still be part of a protected class?

    What thinks the experts?

  • #2
    60+ views and no suggestions.

    Let me ask another question: Suppose an At-Will salesman with a written agreement to pay X% of gross revenue monthly lands a contract worth $1 million in gross revenue to the company every month for a year. Can the company just change X because the amount is "too much"?

    Comment


    • #3
      did the original written agreement state subject to change at anytime...or something to that effect?


      I worked as a service advisor for a car dealership and my pay plan changed all the time. I increased sales year after year. The company also raised their prices during those years....so of course my #'s went up.

      I never expected the company to pay me more based on them raising prices. I would make more and more money every year if they didn't change my pay plan. If they never changed my pay plan and continued to raise their prices...I would have to do less and less every year to make the same money. They wanted me to produce as much as possible every month. Can't blame them for that.

      Take your money and start your own business....could be a headache....but it's lots of fun

      Hope I helped

      Comment


      • #4
        You only posted on Saturday. When someone has advice for you, they will post; commission-only "deals" are difficult at best. I would recommend seeing an attorney. Since there is no minimum salary or minimum wage requirement for outside sales exempt employees, I'm not sure the DLSE would have anything they could enforce. I think you have more of a contract issue.
        I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by jekyl6573 View Post
          did the original written agreement state subject to change at anytime...or something to that effect?


          I worked as a service advisor for a car dealership and my pay plan changed all the time. I increased sales year after year. The company also raised their prices during those years....so of course my #'s went up.

          I never expected the company to pay me more based on them raising prices. I would make more and more money every year if they didn't change my pay plan. If they never changed my pay plan and continued to raise their prices...I would have to do less and less every year to make the same money. They wanted me to produce as much as possible every month. Can't blame them for that.

          Take your money and start your own business....could be a headache....but it's lots of fun

          Hope I helped
          Nope, nothing about being subject to change.

          I realize that they have the right to change the deal going forward. If I got a memo saying "From today on....." But that's not the deal. In this case they told me that they cut the commission rate on commissions earned two months ago, that are payable now. That's like you picking up your paycheck at the end of the period and finding that they've cut your hourly wage by 2/3 with no notice. They can't do that with wages, why would they be able to do it with commissions?

          But my first question was really about retaliation. I'm quite confident that I would prevail if I went to the DLSE, based on what I read this weekend. But if I do that, my boss is going to be really, really mad. But making a claim with the labor commissioner puts you into a protected class, and firing someone for going to the DLSE opens the same can of Whoop A$$ that firing them for their gender, religious beliefs, etc does. So my first question was how long this protects you. Is it as long as you work there?

          But Patty is right. This appears to require the advise of an attorney who can look at my paperwork, etc. I was just hoping for some advice here over the weekend because I am loosing sleep over this and it's driving me crazy. But now that it's Monday I'll go find my friendly neighborhood lawyer.

          Thanks for responding.

          Comment


          • #6
            decommissioned: I've responded to his email, and I said that I disagreed with his "adjustment". I'm wondering what to do next.

            My advice: Before filing a wage claim or even contacting an attorney, ask your boss for a meeting to discuss this matter. Present your boss with all evidence to support your position and listen carefully to the evidence he presents to support the company's position. If, at that point, you feel the company's position is unfair / illegal, then cobtact the DLSE and/or an attorney.
            Barry S. Phillips, CPA
            www.BarryPhillips.com

            IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by BSPCPA View Post
              decommissioned: I've responded to his email, and I said that I disagreed with his "adjustment". I'm wondering what to do next.

              My advice: Before filing a wage claim or even contacting an attorney, ask your boss for a meeting to discuss this matter. Present your boss with all evidence to support your position and listen carefully to the evidence he presents to support the company's position. If, at that point, you feel the company's position is unfair / illegal, then cobtact the DLSE and/or an attorney.
              I had a sit-down with him today. I tried to avoid "legalese" and simply speak to the fairness of the issue. No dice. He simply does not think I deserve to make that kind of money, regardless of what our agreement says.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think you can now got to the DLSE or an attorney in good conscience - knowing that you tried to resolve your dispute informally with your boss.

                Note: You are correct that it would be against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a wage claim with either the DLSE or is superior court. That having said, don't expect your to all warm and fuzzy towards you either.

                Best of luck to you!
                Barry S. Phillips, CPA
                www.BarryPhillips.com

                IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by BSPCPA View Post
                  I think you can now got to the DLSE or an attorney in good conscience - knowing that you tried to resolve your dispute informally with your boss.

                  Note: You are correct that it would be against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a wage claim with either the DLSE or is superior court. That having said, don't expect your to all warm and fuzzy towards you either.

                  Best of luck to you!
                  Just an update........

                  I met with an attorney who looked over my commissions agreement and other company documents. She gave me some advice, and based on that advice I sent my boss a letter demanding my wages.

                  I got fired!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    decommissioned: I met with an attorney who looked over my commissions agreement and other company documents. She gave me some advice, and based on that advice, I sent my boss a letter demanding my wages. I got fired!

                    Time to call the attorney back.
                    Barry S. Phillips, CPA
                    www.BarryPhillips.com

                    IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BSPCPA View Post
                      decommissioned: I met with an attorney who looked over my commissions agreement and other company documents. She gave me some advice, and based on that advice, I sent my boss a letter demanding my wages. I got fired!

                      Time to call the attorney back.
                      10-4 on that.

                      It looks like we're in for a long battle though. My former employer is no stranger to the local courts, they are always being sued. Having worked there for a few years, I know their mentality, but I can't understand it. They spend a fortune on lawyers until the day before the trial and then they settle.

                      I searched the local court records on-line for cases involving them. It turns out they were sued in 2002 for wrongful termination and they settled it in 2006, right about the time I went to work there.

                      BTW, I've learned more about commissions law in the last week than I've ever wanted to know before.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just an update

                        for those who expect justice to be quick:

                        I started this thread over 10 months ago. I was fired, got a lawyer and filed a lawsuit. Our first day in court is not for two more months, and then it's just a case management conference-a chance for the attorneys to meet for the first time in front of the judge and discuss the case. My lawyer tells me that we won't go to trial for at least another year.

                        In the meantime I've found another job and that has become the focus of my attention. I'm working my butt off in these tough times to find some customers who still have money to spend. Every day I have to fight the urge to check the court's website to see the latest document filed, or call my attorney to find out when depositions are going to be scheduled. Most days I win that fight.

                        I'm writing this update because I know how stressful this stuff is. You are on this site because you have some drama in your life and you are probably going nuts over it. Take a deep breath and realize that whatever complaint you have, they rarely get resolved quickly. You may have been wronged, and someday you might see justice done, but in the meantime it's nobody's job to get you on your feet again but yours. Move on, get a new job, whatever. Just let the system do it's thing and you do yours. Someday the ba$tards will pay, but until the check clears I have work to do.

                        Ok, off my soapbox........

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Good advice, decommissioned, and thank you.
                          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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Any updates on this case?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              2 years later.....

                              justice sure moves slowly.

                              Trail date in November. I'm not holding my breath, it's the third one.

                              Since I last posted, they hired a lawyer to represent them soon after we filed the lawsuit. That attorney called my lawyer and asked for an extension to respond to the lawsuit, he'd just been assigned the case. We agreed. That lawyer called my lawyer two weeks later and said that he would not be representing them after all. He was careful with his words, but I believe he said that they could not agree how to best defend the case.

                              A few weeks later they had a new lawyer. This one an accident litigator with little employment law experience. They conducted some written discovery but never moved to depose me or anybody else. Lots of motions and fights over discovery, my lawyer was able to have them sanctioned twice. A trial date was set for last September. Those lawyers moved to quit the case before the trial. Their motion was granted, the reasons were given to the judge in chambers. The trial was continued until April.

                              They hired a new law firm. More fights over discovery. My lawyer took about 6 depositions, they took mine over two days. That was a horrible experience! I would rather have a root canal than ever give a deposition again. They filed a motion to continue the trial, and the court agreed. Trial was moved to November. There was more bickering over discovery and my lawyer was awarded sanctions again.

                              Eariler this week their lawyers filed a motion to quit the case. Hearing on that is in August. Who's holding their breath on the November trial date?

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