Can My Wage Structure Be Changed?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pay and commission:

I was taken off a commissioned pay scale and put on an hourly wage doing the same if not more work responsibility. They say that it was figured out from past month’s commissions but it seems very low for hourly work that is detailed and stressful. is this legal, since now I will make less?

Signed, More Upset By the Hour

Dear More Upset By the Hour:

Our work is usually about workplace communications issues, but in many ways your question involves that as well, since communications from both employer and employee can often smooth these transitions.Your employer can change your wage structure unless you have an employment contract that says otherwise. If you have such a contract you will want to talk to a labor attorney about it.

If you think there may be some aspect of the change that is illegal in your state, you could check with the department of labor in your state. However, rarely are wage structures regulated, unless a labor contract is in effect. Even then, the matter is usually not legal but rather it is civil. If you have not done so, talk to your supervisor or to someone else who might be able to provide some insight into the situation and what might be happening down the line. I don’t know what you do that earns the commission, but it could be that for some employees this will take the pressure off of them and they will be able to make as much or more money without worrying about commissions.

It may also be that because of the state of business, your commission work would have dropped off and the hourly wage will be better. You will know shortly, as you compare your income each week or month, before hourly salary and after, figuring in the work you have done. Or, it could be that the company is simply trying to save money. Salaries are usually where such efforts start.I wonder if there are any negotiation opportunities about this? For example, a commission, then a salary after a certain figure. Or, finding other ways to save money–for example in travel costs or per diem.

Sadly, it seems you have only three options:

1. Accept the new wage structure and reflect it in your personal spending.

2. Talk to those with budget authority to find out if this is permanent or temporary or try to negotiate something different.

3. Look for work elsewhere, where you can work on a commission. I can imagine how frustrating and frightening this is. I wish you the very best as you work within these changes. This is a time for many when they are drawing on inner strength and a strong foundation in their lives, to help them make adjustments and to continue to find happiness and fulfillment. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens with this situation. Again, best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.