Is it legal to withhold earned bonus money from an employee?

UPDATED: Jun 8, 2011

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Is it legal to withhold earned bonus money from an employee?

I work at a call center and generate health insurance leads. We get paid hourly with commissions and daily cash bonus. Yesterday at work I earned $98 in bonus which was payable today. However if you don’t have enough leads by a certain time they send you home and you forfeit your bonus money from the day prior. I got sent home for having 7 leads by 3 pm and my co-worker sitting next to me also had 7, I was due $98 and she was not due any bonus money yet I got sent home and she did not. Is this legal?

Asked on June 8, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The issue is what is the policy of the company? The law does not require bonuses at all, or set out how and when you are paid, or what qualifies for a bonus, or under what circumstances you may forfeit it. All of that is up to the company, so they may set the rules. That means that yes, the company may withhold bonus money, subject to the following:

1) The company has to follow its own announced, set forth in writing, and/or just proven by practice (e.g. by what they have done in the past) policy, at least until they change it for the future. So whatever the policy was, it has to be followed.

2) Companies do not need to generally treat all employees the same or fairly, but it may not discriminate on certain grounds. For example, there is no discrimination allowed on the basis of sex, race, religion, age over 40, or disability. If you think you were treated unequally due to one of these characteristics, then you may have a legal claim.

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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