Can an employer keep changing the terms of pay for a new employee?

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Can an employer keep changing the terms of pay for a new employee?

I’m trying to find information for my fiance. He is a car salesman. They told him during the interview he’d get $750 plus commission. After he started working there they then told him that it’s actually $750 or commission. Then last night (about 2 weeks later) he came home and told me they said that actually the only way to get the commission is if it adds up to at least $1500 (and then it’s still not base plus commission, it’s base or commission). So is there anything we can do about this? It was never written so all we have is what he says versus what they say.

Asked on July 22, 2011 Nebraska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer is free to change the compensation--the amount, how earned, etc.--for a position or job at will, so long as there was no employment contract  to the contrary specifying compensation. That's because without a contract, someone is an "employee at will," which is what it sounds like--they are employed at the will of the employer, and may be fired, or have their job or pay changed, at will.

If your  fiance happened to have given up something to take this job--relocated; left a different job--and he did so in reliance on the promised $750 plus commission, and the employer knew he was relocating or leaving a job based on what they said, that might give him an enforceable right under the theory of "detrimental reliance." Otherwise, though, they can probably keep changing his pay.


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