Can my employer really fire me if I refuse to work without pay?

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Can my employer really fire me if I refuse to work without pay?

My boss has decided she doesn’t want to pay for some of the clients we see, because they don’t pay full price for services (they purchased a discounted certificate). Our pay is based on the services we provide and the cost to the client. I told her I could not work for no pay. She then said if I refused to see clients whether she pays me for them or not, she would terminate my employment. Is this even legal to make someone work without pay for some clients and not others? She selects which clients we see and I did not want to risk seeing majority or only clients I wouldn’t be compensated for.

Asked on August 6, 2011 Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, it is legal, as long as it is told to you in advance. Remember: assuming you have no employment contract (if you do, whatever the contract says about pay, wages, etc. goes), you are an employee at will. An employee at will may be fired; suspended; furloughed; pay reduced; etc. at any time by the employer. So since the employer could generally fire you, cut your pay, or suspend you, she can make it a condition of employment that certain clients be serviced for no charge; and if don't (understandably) like that condition, your recourse is to refuse and quit or be fired. If you've already done the work *before*she tells you, then you have to be paid your regular wages; but if disclosed ahead of time, she can make it a condition of employment that certain clients are not billed and you not paid, and you can then agree to work under those terms or to not work for her.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, you do not have to work if you are not going to be paid for the work. This is not an internship nor is it slave labor.  If the conversation with your employer went as you said I would advise that you email her and confirm in writing that this is what she told you.  Do you think that it would be possible for you to suggest rather a set salary to be paid to you so then compensation would not be based upon whether or not the client pays?  I think that if she fires you she will have a problem and I would consider filing a complaint with the department of labor.  Just make sure you have some evidence to present.  Good luck.


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