Underpayment from a former employer?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Underpayment from a former employer?

I previously worked for a company in NE that is based out of Virginia approximately 4 months ago, for 5 years. I was a store mgr and my pay was salary, plus a bonus/commission monthly. I just found out from the current mgr that the monthly bonus which is percentage based on performance was being calculated incorrectly over a 4 month period while I was the store manager resulting in approximately a $1000 underpayment. The company however paid it to the current manager. Do I have any right to recoup that money since it should have been paid to me in the first place, even though I’m no longer employed by them? I was not terminated, but took fanother job, gave 2 weeks notice and left on good terms.

Asked on December 9, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Nebraska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If you had a written bonus agreement, commission agreement, or employment contract which stated the terms and calculation of the bonus/commission, then you can enforce that contract, including by a lawsuit (for "breach of contract") to get the money to which you are entitled.  However, in the absence of a written agreement, all aspects of employment, including compensation, are "employment at will," which means--among other things--that the employer effectively pays you the commission or bonus it chooses. Thus, even if they were "wrong" in terms of how they should have calculated them, they legally are allowed to do it "wrong": again, when it's not in writing, your bonus is whatever they choose to pay you. So without a written agreement, you cannot enforce the calculations you believe they should have made or the amount you believe they should have paid.

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