Bad day at work:
August 24, 2006 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Bad day at work: My employeur is decreaseing my salary from 90K to 45K

with commission. He's done this following some négative comments made in my team and the fact that he wants me to be "in training" for a project where we are opening an office in another country. Is this legal? What are my options?
posted by sandrapbrady to Law & Government (25 answers total)
Where do you work and do you have a contract?
posted by maxpower at 10:16 AM on August 24, 2006

Sandra, where do you live? In the USA this would be perfectly legal, and my advice would be to get another job if you think your time is worth $95K a year (or anything more than $45K).
posted by alms at 10:17 AM on August 24, 2006

Canada and I have an open contract at 90K. He will make me sign an addendum I'm sure.
posted by sandrapbrady at 10:17 AM on August 24, 2006

Given the circumstances, you should seriously consider moving on to another job as soon as possible.

Can you afford to look for another job? Is your resume ready? Are you interested in unemployment benefits?

Whatever you do, don't sign a new addendum/contract without consulting someone first (lawyer, unemployment office, etc.)
posted by jca at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2006

Sounds to me... if you refuse to sign an addendum, he would start having to gather information and give you warnings about termination. Ask him now if he would just prefer to lay you off... you'll get about the same in EI (although there might be cap) as the pay cut he is proposing. And it sounds like he just doesn't have enough money to pay you.

Anyway, it's bullshit.
posted by jon_kill at 10:28 AM on August 24, 2006

And you're in Quebec too. So, the laws are probably even more liberal. Go talk to an employment lawyer.
posted by jon_kill at 10:29 AM on August 24, 2006

Sounds like you are being not-so-subtly pressured to quit. After all, he must know that no person in their right mind would actually stick around. He just doesn't want to fire you or lay you off, as then he'd be in the uncomfortable situation of telling the unemployment agency why he did that.

Don't let him. Do what jon_kill suggested, and collect EI until you find a new job.
posted by luriete at 10:44 AM on August 24, 2006

holy shit, that's class-a bullying.

he obviously wants you to quit. can there be any doubt as to your future in this company if they value so much, they cut your salary in half?

do not quit. it's time to talk to a lawyer and it's time to get your papers out. you want to have a job by the time he is going to part ways with you. make sure not to sign the additional papers.
posted by krautland at 10:56 AM on August 24, 2006

Did you have a commission before, or is the commission new with the expectation that with base + commission you should be able to exceed your former salary of 90K?
posted by willnot at 11:03 AM on August 24, 2006

Do not quit if you want EI. Get let go, it will make getting EI that much easier. Plus, then you're entitled to two weeks notice and/or severence, if you're not being fired with cause.

Unfortunately, you're earning much, much more than what EI caps out at. IIRC, EI pays 55% of your salary, up to about 55% of 45K a year. When I was collecting last year, I got the max from EI and was only getting around $750 every two weeks after taxes. It sucks, but it's better than nothing if thats all you have. However, even 45K is twice as good as EI - perhaps consider accepting this crap until you can find a new job?

Make sure you get a copy of the addendum (even if you don't sign it). If you don't sign it and he "fires" you, perhaps it could be helpful if you want to sue if for unlawful dismissal (of course, IINAL, or anything even close).
posted by cgg at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2006

He will make me sign an addendum I'm sure.

Make? In other words, he can't breach the contract and cut your salary in HALF without your consent? Then unless you work for the mafia, just don't consent.

Look, contracts are supposed to be a commitment for equitable exchange. Unless the addendum guarantees something else that you can easily convert into $45k cash per year or else guarantees a 50% cut in workload to go along with this pay decrease, then they're counting on you being naive enough to sign something that goes against your contractual interests.

Talk to a lawyer about "constructive termination". What they're doing is trying to force you to resign because they (so far) lack legal justification for a firing. Start looking for another job now, because there's little hope of a future at the current company no matter what you do now. But at least while you're under the current contract you can report $90k "current salary" on employment applications, and continue collecting your full due until you've found a new job. You don't want to have to start there as the $45k guy.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:10 AM on August 24, 2006

IANAL and I don't live in Canada, but I am wondering if you are the only woman on this team. And are you being screwed over because of it? If so, see a lawyer about sex discrimination.

And as others said, don't sign anything without legal advice.
posted by bim at 11:14 AM on August 24, 2006

I've got two words for you: Constructive Dismissal. In Canada, shit like this is a good enough reason to quit your job and file for EI. You don't even need to have him lay you off.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:16 AM on August 24, 2006

It's total bs, but still I wonder what kind of job it is?

Is it something that traditionally is a base + commission kind of thing, even though you weren't previously working on that basis? I don't know many or any of the details, but I kind of remember that there ARE different rules in the labor code related to sales-type jobs.
posted by mikel at 11:50 AM on August 24, 2006

As others have said, this is usually referred to as constructive dismissal. More information at Canada's government site.
posted by chunking express at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2006

The question as posted does not provide enough information. If the commission has been added to what was previously a straight salary job, the total compensation expectations might be similar or at least might be expected to be similar. It is probably the sort of thing that would be worth a quick discussion with a local employment attorney, especially before you sign any new contract.

If, in fact, the net effect is halve your salary, they are sending a pretty clear message. The "negative comments" statement is ambiguous -- it reads a bit like your employer may allege that you have a performance problem. That being the case, it may well be time to brush off the old resume and start looking about. A lawyer could advise you if you'd be better off signing the new contract or facing whatever consequences are available to your employer when you refuse to sign it.

If EI is 23k, I wouldn't be in a hurry to take that option. It is almost always easier to find a new job when you are still employed at your old one.
posted by Lame_username at 12:37 PM on August 24, 2006

"It is almost always easier to find a new job when you are still employed at your old one."

posted by lester at 1:02 PM on August 24, 2006

is this legal
Depends on your contract, can't answer without reading it.
what are my options
Stay or go - suggest the latter, your only real leverage is alternate employment.

Meanwhile based on not much info, I'd guess from his perspective he's not happy with your performance, but figures you have it in you to succeed, and is changing your incentive plan in this major way to shake you up and get you to do that, or leave.
posted by scheptech at 1:03 PM on August 24, 2006

Do not quit if you want EI.

A unilateral decrease in salary is among the two dozen or so valid reasons to quit a job. One can still get benefits when you quit a job -- I did last year. Crazycanuck is absolutely right.

But don't bother wasting the time or money talking to a lawyer. You are, effectively, being dismissed with notice and being offered a new position with a new pay rate.

However, the OP said "open contract". If he is a contractor and is not actually an employee, odds are that he will not be eligible for EI benefits whether he quits or is terminated.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:06 PM on August 24, 2006

We need more details.

Meanwhile based on not much info, I'd guess from his perspective he's not happy with your performance, but figures you have it in you to succeed, and is changing your incentive plan in this major way to shake you up and get you to do that, or leave.

The above text was the same feeling I got when I read your "negative comments" statement. It sounds like your boss thinks you are not doing enough in your current role. If you were sales you may not be selling enough to cover your own salary so he is looking for ways to keep you on the team but also compensate you for your performance (or lack of).
posted by cbushko at 1:30 PM on August 24, 2006

Go to EI and ask them to explain constructive dismissal to you. As them to give you a copy of the interpretation guidelines. Then file for EI, using those guidelines to present your case.
posted by acoutu at 2:26 PM on August 24, 2006

Is there anyway you can address the problems he has (or claims he has) with your peformance and so avoid the whole pay cut issue?
posted by orange swan at 4:01 PM on August 24, 2006

I'm a little confused here - the original question describes the issue as relating to "salary" but there is also mention of an "open contract". The first thing to clarify, before looking into EI, is whether you're an employee or a contractor. If you're a contractor, then EI doesn't apply in any way, shape, or form. Contractors are self-employed. Does your 'employer' deduct income tax, CPP, and EI from your pay? If yes, chances are you're an employee. If not, you're probably a contractor (there is a more complicated legal test for employee vs. contractor; I am simplifying things here).

If you're a contractor, the employer has no right to arbitrarily cancel the contract unless you're not upholding your side of the deal, or if there is escape clause in the contract. If you're an employee, then EI might be an option, but it'll be far less than 45k/yr; you'll be better off staying where you're at until you can find other work.

In any event, this is definitely something that would be worth speaking to a lawyer about. The couple of hundred it'll cost you for a consultation will easily be worth it if it saves you $45k/yr.
posted by gwenzel at 5:24 AM on August 25, 2006

Even if you are a contractor, talk to HRDC (EI) about whether you really are self-employed or not. They may rule that you're an employee. Many companies try to say their employees are contractors so that they can (illegally) avoid paying CPP, EI and other payroll taxes.
posted by acoutu at 8:03 AM on August 25, 2006

I don't know about HRDC but keep in mind Revenue Canada's treatment of the employee/contractor thing, they may consider you an employee if:
- this employer/customer is your sole source of income
- you work on their premises, not your own
- you use their tools, not your own
And I believe commission sales agents can't be contractors...
Anyway all this has significant tax implications including whether you're allowed business-related income deductions.
posted by scheptech at 9:54 AM on August 25, 2006

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