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Your employer is legally bound to pay you commissions as promised

Taking a job in sales can be very stressful. You need to be constantly working and pushing for better sales figures in order to have a regular income. After all, you may only receive a minuscule base salary, or, in some cases, no pay at all except for commissions. You depend on those commissions to pay your mortgage or rent, to put food on the table for your family and to cover your costs of living.

In order to ensure that you're making enough during any given pay period, you probably track your own sales very closely. That way, you don't have to worry about any surprises when its paycheck time. Tracking is particularly useful if your employer has a bonus structure to the commission program, where selling certain amounts or particular products will earn you extra incentives. If your records aren't matching up with your employer's, you may need to take action.

Commission agreements are contracts

When your employer hires you to work for commission, the law requires that they follow through with what was promised. If your employer fails to pay the full commission or bonuses as outlined in your agreement, you could end up in financial trouble. Money you need to pay bills could end up delayed, or worse, never materializing at all.

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not list receiving commission payments as an employment right, but if it is in the terms of your employment, it is a contractual obligation for your employer. All that means is that you can't rely on the government to directly enforce your right to fair pay in this situation. You may be able to take action in civil court to seek the amount that wasn't paid as promised.

Is your employer penalizing you for speaking out?

If you've talked to management, human resources or accounting about the underpayment of your commissions, your employer could retaliate against you. It's relatively easy to do in a commission-based employment situation. You could find yourself getting fewer leads, worse leads or no leads at all. Your shifts could get affected in the same way, with fewer good shifts or less time scheduled overall.

Sometimes, unscrupulous employers with high turnover rates will just fire anyone who realizes that commission checks are smaller than they should be. While whistleblowers and those who call attention to illegal employment practices receive protection under the law, employers who don't comply with the law about payment and commission aren't likely to comply with laws protecting whistleblowers.

You shouldn't just give up and move on if your employer or former employer didn't pay you the commission you were rightfully owed. If you have gotten penalized or terminated by your employer for addressing commission payment discrepancies, you should consider your legal options for recourse.

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