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I have been working for a company now for just under 10 years. Upon the start
of my employment it was in the contract that I would receive royalties upon
product idea submissions. Around 5 years ago, the company decided that
royalties would no longer be paid out to employees. In my case, I had agreed to
a small raise to cover the royalty payment. Fast forward a few years, I had
come to find out that the company has still been paying royalties out to a
couple of employees. Under the terms of the contract, it does not state
individual names, it states that employees would no longer be eligible. I am
wondering if I can benefit from contra proferentum in this case. Recently,
the company has released a product from an idea that I had a year before this
contract was established, and have also produced another couple from other
ideas after my signing of the contract. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you.
Asked on March 7, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Washington
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 5 years ago | Contributor
No, unfortunately this is not a case of interpretive or contractual ambiguity, which is where the doctrine of contra proferentum comes into play. Rather, it is the case that the company is treating other individuals more preferably than you, by continuing to pay them royalties; however, the law permits this--there is no legal obligation that a company treat all employees alike or equally. Rather, some employees may lawfully be given compensation or payments which others do not receive.
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