Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: My employer closed the office last month because of a snowstorm. He advised us the day before of his decision to close. When we returned, we learned that if we wanted to get paid for the missed day we had to use a personal day. Is this legal or a theft on the part of the company? — Snow Job?

DEAR SNOW: It is legal, if you are an hourly, or nonexempt, employee, which it sounds as if you are. As an hourly employee you have to be paid only for the hours you work. And your employer can largely determine what hours you work. It may not feel like a favor, but that is what your employer extended to you by allowing you to use a personal day to cover the missed day. That ias more than the law mandates. Too bad your boss didn’t explain the pay situation when he announced the closing. That probably would have headed off your feeling of being cheated.

DEAR CARRIE: My brother works for a weekly publication selling advertising. He is paid weekly and, in addition, receives a monthly commission check if he sells over a certain threshold. The commission is a percentage of his “over-the-threshold” sales. He reaches that commission amount regularly but doesn’t know if he is getting paid properly. That’s because the monthly commission check has no explanation accompanying it. He is told that some money is held back when the customer has not paid a bill, but when that bill is paid, he has no idea if he is getting his proper commission. He says he doesn’t have a written commission agreement. Is this legal? If not, what can he do? — Commission Confusion

DEAR COMMISSION: The issues you pointed out concerned an employment attorney I contacted.

“Your brother appears to be working for a company that has not complied with various New York State labor laws,” said Carmelo Grimaldi, a partner at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola.

For starters, your brother must be given a written commission agreement, said Grimaldi, who represents employers.

“Unlike other job classifications, New York requires that a commission salesperson’s pay/employment agreement must be in writing and signed by both the employer and the salesman,” Grimaldi said.

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He said the agreement must include a description of how such things as wages, salary, commissions, and all other money earned and payable will be calculated; how often the employee will be paid and how money is earned and payable when the employment relationship ends.

And he said the employment agreement must be kept on file during the employment relationship and for at least three years after it ends.

“The lack of an agreement in your brother’s situation has needlessly caused him doubt as to whether he is being paid properly and exposed his employer to liability under the labor laws,” Grimaldi said. “If there is a dispute between the parties as to the amount of monies owed and an employment agreement is not made available, the New York State Department of Labor must presume that the commission salesperson’s version of the agreed terms of employment is correct.”

Secondly, for commission sales representatives like your brother, an employer must provide, upon written request, a statement of earnings paid or due.

“Thus, your brother may choose to approach his employer and ask for an explanation as to the calculation of his commissions given his uncertainty,” he said.

Finally, for unearned commissions, employers may make adjustments and/or apply charges in accordance with the written agreement, he said. For example, an employer may reduce an employee’s unearned commissions if a customer doesn’t pay (your brother’s situation) or if the employee incurred expenses in making the sales, he said.

But he added, “Once earned, however, commissions are considered wages and deductions are strictly limited to those permitted by the Labor Law.”