Can an employer randomly deduct or lower an employee’s commission?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer randomly deduct or lower an employee’s commission?

My husband works on cars and the shop gets a commission that is then split among all employees. He sometimes takes unpaid days off work and in the past that has not been a problem and he still gets the normal commission. This time he came back to work and was being given his paycheck he was told they didn’t give him the full commission because he took days off without pay. Can they do this? It’s never happened before.

Asked on November 7, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

They can only do this IF there was agreement from him as to the reduction. That agreement can be to this particular situation only, or it can be in the form of a written agreement or written employment policy/manual which he can be shown to have received (in which case, by continuing to work there after getting the policy statement, he is considered to have agreed to it) which covers all situations after receipt of the agreement or policy/manual. But in any event, there must be some agreement to the change made before it is implemented. While an employer can change or reduce pay or commissions, either permanently or in the case of certain events, such a change is only effective after notice of it to the employee. Pre-notice, the employee must be paid as per the wages or commissions then in effect when he did the work.
So legally, your husband could try to sue for any money he was denied, if he did not have prior notice of the policy or change. But whether it is worth suing his employer over this is a different story; and note that now that he knows the policy, they can hold him to it in the future.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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