Skip to main content

My employment contract doesn't say ANYTHING about paying commissions after I quit or upon termation. Do they have to pay?

Napa, CA |
Attorney answers 2


An attorney would need to see your employment contract and it's wording to answer your question. You should consult with an attorney who can review it for you. Good luck.

I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case. No attorney-client relationship shall be created through the use reading of this response on Avvo. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this response.


First, it is important to know if your commission meets the definition of "commission" under Labor Code § 204, which defines commissions this way: "The term 'commission wages' has been defined in the case of Keyes Motors, Inc. v. DLSE (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 557, which held that commissions arise from the sale of a product, not the making of a product or the rendering of a service. The court further held that in order to be a commission, the compensation must be a percentage of the price of the product or service whic h is sold. (See also, O.L. 1983.11.25; see also Section 2 .5.4 of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Enforcement Manual.) The California Supreme Court in Ramirez v. Yosem ite Water C o., Inc. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 785, reiterated that the definition of commissions in Section 204.1 ap plies to all employees receiving commissions."

General contract terms apply to commission wage plans. An employer is required to act reasonably to allow the employee to obtain the benefits of the contract for a commission wage. The employer cannot time a termination or mislead the employee to cheat the employee into losing commissions, particularly IF the employee was the main person whose work resulted in the sale. The court in Wise v. Reeve Electronics, Inc. (1960) 183 Cal.App.2d 4 held that where the employee was the procuring cause of a sale, he is entitled to the commission “irrespective of the fact that the principal himself, or through others, may have intervened.”

If the employer terminates the employee's employment, thereby preventing the employee from meeting all the terms required to earn the commission, then the employee may be entitled to recover all or a pro-rata portion of the commission.

There is a lot of case law on this subject and it would take quite a long time to type out the law that pertains to every possible situation. You safest course is to take your contract to one or more experienced employment law attorneys with whom you can discuss the details of your situation and get an analysis based on the contract language and the facts.

To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state.

I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best. *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***