DEAR CARRIE: My wife has worked for a large Long Island travel agency for about 20 years. She is paid an hourly salary plus a commission on her sales. Most of her clients pay by credit card. Is the travel agency allowed to deduct from her commission the fees the credit card companies charge? They range from 21⁄2 percent to 3 percent. — Legal Fees?
DEAR LEGAL: Employers can make the deduction as long as it’s part of the commission agreement, said employment attorney Richard Kass, a partner of Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.
“An employer can calculate commissions however it wants to, as long as it notifies the employee in advance and in writing how the commissions will be calculated,” Kass said. “If the employer promised employees that they would get X percent commission, then the employer must pay X percent commission.”
What the company cannot legally do is say after the fact that 3 percent of the commission will be deducted because of credit card fees, he said.
“But if the employer’s written commission policy said all along that the commission will be X percent for non-credit-card sales, and 97 percent for credit card sales, that’s okay,” he said.
A previous question on this issue dealt with restaurant tips and whether employers can legally deduct credit card transaction fees from them. That answer was also yes. So if a credit card carries a 3 percent processing fee, then the employer can legally deduct that from tips.
But the deduction cannot reduce the tipped employee’s hourly pay below minimum wage for the week.
DEAR CARRIE: I work at a nonunion hospital as a registered nurse. In order to earn pay increases, we have to join a hospital committee. The catch is we have to attend the meetings during our lunch hour. Also, we have mandatory staff meetings during the lunch hour. I have worked at several hospitals over 25 years and had never experienced this before. Here, meetings generally take place at 12 or 1. If I attend, that is it for lunch. We are supposed to get a 15-minute break afterward, but that never happens. I’ve told my supervisor I would be happy to attend the meetings but not on my lunch hour. I have been told to go to the mandatory meetings or risk being written up. What should I do? — Meeting Averse
DEAR MEETING: Someone should inform your supervisors that state labor law generally guarantees all employees who work more than 6 hours a day at least a half-hour uninterrupted meal break, even managers. One of the few exceptions comes into play when an employee is the only person on duty. But even then, the employee must agree to forgo a meal break. Judging from your protest, it appears your supervisors are breaking the law by not giving you a meal break, if you work more than 6 hours a day.
Your employer doesn’t have to give you any other breaks during the day. But if you qualify for a lunch break, then you must get one.
One other point worth mentioning is that if you are exempt, which registered nurses typically are, you don’t have to be paid for working through lunch. But if you are hourly, the hospital has to pay you for working on your lunch hour.
As for what you should do, I would hang a copy of this article up on the company bulletin board. Or you could gingerly convey to your supervisor what your rights are under labor law and hope the person will be receptive enough to help bring the hospital into compliance with the state’s meal-break law.
Go to bit.ly/LImealtime for more on state law and meal breaks.