Help Wanted: Threat could land boss in hot water

State labor law makes it illegal to retaliate State labor law makes it illegal to retaliate against a worker who complains about a possible violation, such as an unpaid commission. Photo Credit: iStock

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Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

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

DEAR CARRIE: My husband is a salesman who earns a base salary plus a commission. He made a sale to a hotel but never received his commission because the business filed for bankruptcy. He has since learned, however, that his employer received a settlement on the account after suing the hotel. My husband asked his boss for his fair share of his commission, based on the settlement payment received, not even the original amount. His boss has refused to pay him anything, saying that the lawsuit cost money to file. And the boss threatened to fire him if he complained to human resources or to the state Labor Department. Does my husband have any recourse? -- Commission Denied

DEAR COMMISSION: The boss' attitude is certainly hostile. And it could land him in hot water if he retaliates against your husband for filing a complaint with HR or the Labor Department.

But first things first. Whether the company has to pay him the commission depends on the terms of the commission agreement. If the terms show he earned it, the company has to pay him. So your husband should double-check the agreement. If he feels the agreement supports paying him, he should call the state Labor Department at 516-794-8195.

As for the threatened retaliation, state labor law clearly states it is illegal to retaliate against an employee who complains to his or her employer or to the Labor Department about a possible labor law violation.

The law "makes it illegal for employers to discharge, penalize or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against an employee" for such things. If that happens, he should contact the Labor Department right away.

 

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DEAR CARRIE: My wife works locally for a global company. The office is closed the day after Thanksgiving. Yet, the employer requires employees to use a personal day if they want to get paid for the time off. But they get just a couple of personal days a year and hate the idea of being forced to use one. I think they are being penalized. Do any labor laws speak to this issue? -- Forced Day Off

DEAR FORCED: As unjust as that seems, it's legal. Labor laws don't require employers to offer benefits, so when companies decide to do so, they generally decide the terms. A big exception is workers covered by a union contract or other employment agreement. They negotiate benefits, including paid time off. Short of that, employers decide the policy for using the time. So closing the office and making workers use a personal day to get paid is perfectly legal.

 

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DEAR CARRIE: Is it legal for a company to force all employees to have direct deposit? -- Direct Query

DEAR DIRECT: In most cases companies need the written permission of employees before paying them through direct deposit. Otherwise, "employees who do not consent to a direct-deposit arrangement must receive wages in cash or by check," the state regulation says.

As with any regulation, this one has big exceptions. This regulation doesn't apply to exempt employees who earn more than $900 a week. The regulation notes that those employees work in executive, administrative or professional jobs. Also excepted are farm workers in a business not connected to a factory.

 

For more on regulations outlawing retaliation against employees who report labor law violations, go to http://bit.ly/HDY9M2

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For more on state laws regarding direct deposit go to http://bit.ly/17kG41y

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