Judicial District of Middlesex at Middletown


      Employment; Whether Trial Court Properly Held that Provision in Employer’s Sales Incentive Plan that Deprived Terminated Employee of Earned Commissions Violated Public Policy.  The defendant, a security services company, hired the plaintiff as a business development manager to sell its services to prospective and existing customers.  The plaintiff signed the defendant’s sales incentive plan, which provided that when a manager’s employment is terminated, “all commissions cease, except that any commissionable amounts that have been invoiced to the client prior to the [manager’s] termination date . . . will still be paid commission as part of final pay to the [manager].”  The defendant terminated the plaintiff’s employment, and the plaintiff brought this action pursuant to the wage collection statute, General Statutes § 31-72, claiming that the defendant had improperly failed to pay him his earned commissions upon the termination of his employment.  The trial court agreed, finding that because the plaintiff had performed all of the work necessary to earn the commissions prior to the termination of his employment, the provision in the plan that deprived him of those commissions resulted in a forfeiture of wages.  Accordingly, the court held that the provision was unenforceable because it violated public policies that strongly favor the payment of earned wages and disfavor forfeitures.  The defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court’s invalidation of the provision violated the well settled principle that employers and employees have the right to negotiate the circumstances under which commissions will be owed to employees.  The defendant maintains that here, the plaintiff agreed to the terms of the plan, which specifically provided that upon his termination he would forfeit any commissions for services that the defendant had not yet billed to its clients.  It contends that because the services at issue here had not yet been billed at the time of the plaintiff’s termination, he was not owed any commissions for those services.  Accordingly, it claims that no public policy was violated under the circumstances and that the court therefore lacked any basis for rewriting the terms of the plan.  The plaintiff counters that because he fully earned the commissions before he was terminated, the court properly ruled that the forfeiture provision of the plan violated public policy and was therefore unenforceable.  The plaintiff also cross appeals, arguing that the trial court improperly struck common-law wrongful discharge claims pleaded in his complaint on the ground that the existence of an adequate statutory remedy precluded him from bringing the common-law claims.  He maintains that, unlike § 31-72, the common-law claims would have permitted him to recover the wages that he would have earned in the future if his employment had not been wrongfully terminated.