What to do if I recently accepted a job, and was told I would be paid hourly but now they want to pay commission only?

My first day they did not have everything set up and ready for me yet, so at the end of the day they told me to just come back on the next Monday. I had been out of work for quite a while and was very excited to be working again, and the pay seemed promising. However, before Monday, they called me back and informed me that my position wouldn’t be hourly, they were changing it to commission only without a base pay. This is something I had never done before but was in a situation where I could not say no. So, I told them that would be fine, however she could not give me a rate of pay. I went back to work on Monday and she said it was all in the works, they would tell me very soon exactly my percentage of commission and how and when I would be paid. Now, after a month of working there, they still have not told me. I have told them that I wouldn’t be returning to work until they tell me because I have basically been free labor for the last month. So, they send me a check. A check for $65 – for a month of work!. Obviously, I am upset with the company and think they should be reported for bad business ethics. I was suckered into the scam but I would hate for it to happen to anyone else. I am just not sure of my rights or who to tell.

Asked on September 23, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A company can change its pay structure (such as hourly to commission) or rate (of hourly wage or commission) for an employee at will, unless there is an actual employment contract. However, whatever it is, that is what an employee must be paid until a change is made--that is, until the employe is actually given notice and details of the new pay. Furthermore, unless a job fits one of several narrow exemptions to the minimum wage law, an employee--no matter how pay is calculated--must be paid at least minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), which is obviously more than received.

You may wish to file a lawsuit against the employer--you could file in small claims, if the total amount is under the small claims limit, and act as your own attorney. Assuming the amount you were initially told you would be paid was greater than minimum wage, you should file for that amount--i.e. for that rate x the number of hours you worked--on the grounds that until and unless they actually gave you what the new commission rate was (so until they actually told you the new pay rate) you were to be paid at the rate they had initially given you.


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