Important Decision on Wage Claim Dismissal

Many employers struggle with wage claims - How do you avoid the claims being filed in the first place? How do you defend against them when they are filed? A recent case brought under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq., proves that wage claim dismissal is highly attainable if you have proper employment policies and terms in place. A Claimant was employed at a law office as a collection agent from February 7, 2011 through July 2, 2012, upon which date he was terminated.  The employee asserted that he was entitled to a bonus of $3,454.44 based on his total collections of $66,962.53 for the month of June 2012.  Claimant stated that the “commission” was earned as of June 30, 2012 and should be paid to him.  The evidence demonstrated that Claimant signed for receipt of the employee handbook even though he stated that he did not recall receiving it.  The employer’s accounting manager testified that the company policy included in the employee handbook states that to earn a bonus the employee must be employed on the date when payment is made or distribution does not occur and therefore, the employee is not entitled to that bonus.

The Administrative Law Judge ruled that Claimant has “failed to demonstrate that Respondent made an unequivocal promise of a bonus to Claimant”.   Moreover, it was clearly stated in Respondent’s employee handbook that Claimant had to be employed by the Respondent “on the date of the bonus check which is the second payday of the month subsequent to the month earned.”  The Administrative Law Judge stated that the language in this provision is unambiguous and therefore the language controls.  Claimant’s wage claim was denied.

To read more on this topic see our August 19, 2013 blog entry on the Circuit court of Cook County’s Decision regarding a similar case.