Commissions Are Due and Owing Upon Termination in Georgia
The recent lawsuit makes clear, Georgia companies think they can fire any employee (and they believe this applies to pretty much any employee from the janitor up to the CEO) to avoid paying outstanding money owed. This lawsuit was filed by an ousted chief executive officer against his former employer, an Atlanta-based flooring company giant, claiming he was terminated in a way that wrongly prevented him from receiving millions of dollars in severance benefits.
The former CEO’s suit illustrates that Georgia companies, both large and small, often try to fire employees and try to potentially save millions of dollars in commissions, severance benefits, bonuses, salary, stock option payments and and other payments for wages earned by the employee but not yet paid. While not every company operates like this, many of them in Georgia do. And the sleazy ones that do sometimes avoid paying large amounts of money because those workers who are affected either (1) don’t know their legal rights to recover all monies owed to them; (2) realize that they are owed the money but decide to not pursue it because they believe that the lawsuit will be too costly or harmful to their business prospects; or (3) hire a lawyer to represent them agains the company who is inexperienced and/or not familiar with the area of law dealing with pay disputes, commission disputes and the like.
I have seen this all too often. A typical scenario is when one of the best sales representatives for a company gives notice on that they would be leaving the company (as they feel they should do in order to provide the company with proper notice). Instead of rewarding the sale person for doing the right think the company advises the employee that they are terminated immediately, walks the employee out and then refuses to pay them their final commission check. The employee then feel as if they have no recourse and signs some type of release in exchange for a small fraction of what they are owed (and in the process, becomes bound by an overly broad release that adds additional non-compete and other restrictive covenants). When, In actuality, they could have gotten ALL of the money they are owed without having to sign the documents pushed in front of their face by the employer. Why? Because they did not consult with an experienced lawyer who regularly handles these type of commission disputes and who understands the rights of the fired employee and the duties of the company who terminated the employee.