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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Thumbs down Commission Money Due, but Employer Won't Pay Without a Signed Legal Release

    My question involves employment and labor law for the state of: MARYLAND
    I have been working for a builder as a sales manager for the past 6 years. We have had an extremely successful relationship until the company went under financial hardship. My employment agreement is a base salary of approx. $30,000, medical insurance for myself and family and commission. I earn 1.5-2% of sales depending on the type of sale. Six months ago, I was the seller’s agent for a very large house that my company built. The commission was over $50,000. In addition, there was a $5,000 bonus offered to any employee who brought in a sale by the particular date specified. The company I am employed by has had many financial troubles and has a long list of contractors they owe money to. I am usually paid at the settlement table or a commission check is issued to me within three days of the settlement. The company withheld my commission. It was explained to me that they would pay me as soon as they became more solvent. They were not disputing that the money was owed to me; they just didn’t have it and basically used the money to keep the company afloat. I have numerous emails over the past months going back and forth with the owner and also the CFO of the company. After I reached the three month mark of not being paid my commission, I felt I had no choice but to file a complaint with the Department of Labor (DLLR) in my state. The owner of the company was furious and felt I was not being a team player. I explained that I just needed it to be a matter of record as so much time had elapsed and I had still not been paid. At one point, (Approx. 15 weeks) the company did pay me $6,000 toward part of my commission. I asked them to sign a promissory note, which they did, agreeing to pay me the balance of the money owed into two payments. When the first due date came, they did not pay the amount agreed upon and paid nothing.
    I have also been made aware that the company had property that they sold during this time and did not pay me. Now, there has been another property sold, and the company has given the title company (settlement office) instructions to pay me a commission as well as the balance due me from the other transaction. However, they are refusing to pay me interest on the money that was due me over the last six months and the $5,000 bonus. Because I have protested that, they have also drawn up a 3 page legal release that they want me to sign in order to receive my commissions. I am in a desperate financial position and the owner of the company is very aware of this. If I do not sign this release, I will not be able to get the funds.
    The release uses language that says I will be releasing the company of any and all claims of any kind and nature prior to and including the date of and in the future due to or in connection with my activities as a sales agent. In addition it limits me from speaking about the agreement in any form or disclosing the terms of the agreement.

    This is a very broad statement. The company CFO has said that I have to sign it as I have protested that amount being paid and can not run the “risk” of paying me and having me come back at them. Can I sign this under duress and coercion? I can not, under any circumstances, have the title company hold this money in escrow while we work this out. I have run out of time and money.

    Note: I have numerous emails back and forth from both the owners of the company and the CFO in regards to the various reasons why I have not been paid due to their financial problems.

    I do not believe my job to be in jeopardy, but for all I know, they might wait until I accept this commission and fire me. The owner is still livid that I filed a complaint. Maryland is an “at will” state.

    The DLLR has been inundated with complaints and basically did little other than to half heartedly investigate the complaint, agree that there was a financial dispute between Employer and Employee, and refer the whole thing to the State’s attorney’s office.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Commission Money Due, but Employer Won't Pay Without a Signed Legal Release

    You can sue your employer; you can sign the release and anticipate that you will be giving up any claims you may have; or you can run the release past a lawyer and see what your lawyer says about whether any potential claims might survive the release.

    Nobody can advise you as to the enforceability of a release we haven't seen. Unless your lawyer tells you otherwise, you should assume it's valid and will hold up in court.

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