How far back can an employer go if you have been over paid commission?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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How far back can an employer go if you have been over paid commission?

I have been employed at the same company for the past 12 years. I am paid a
base salary and commission where the commission equates to over 2/3 of my
earnings. In 2014 the company we very behind on my commission because rather
that paying on actual they were flat rating my commission. In 2014 they doubled
my commission, again a flat rate to catch up on the deficit. By the second
quarter of 2016 i was caught up and they began over paying me, again the flat
amount. Due to a couple bad sales years this became a significant surplus so in
the beginning of November of 2017 the stopped paying any commission. It is now
3 months since i have received any commission, despite numerous request my
employer has not given me reconciliation on commissions and i am now at the
point that i am required to go into debt to cover my living expenses.
Legally how far back can an employer go if they have over paid an employee to
recover that over payment. Is there not a law that would state that an employee
should not be financial stress when required to pay back such over payments.
I live on Ontario Canada, please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Asked on January 23, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) U.S. law does not care about your financial stress or distress. If you owe money to someone (whether due to overpayment, breach of contract, fraud, causing injury--i.e. any reason), your personal financial and life circumstances have no effect on your obligation to repay.
2) An overpayment claim is essentially a contractual claim: it flows out of the agreement (whether written or oral) to pay you a certain amount for your work, and the fact that (whether intentionall or accidentally) that agreement was violated and you were paid too much. The statute of limitations, or time within which to sue, effectively defines how "far" they can "go back," since once an overpayment is too long ago or old for them to take legal action about, it is unrecoverable. The statute of limitations for contract-based claims in the state you identify (Alaska) is 3 years: they can look to recover overpayments made up to three years ago.

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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