A. Researching the Company
Before beginning to work as a salesperson – as an employee or independent contractor –carefully research the company for which you plan to sell products. Your compensation depends on the merchandise, shipping, and prompt, accurate payment. If possible, ask customers whether they are receiving their orders promptly and whether they return merchandise. Ask former sales representatives about their experiences with the company.
Unless you have a written contract that provides for a definite term of employment, employment is at will. A company can discharge you at any time without cause.
Most companies and their sales representatives have oral contracts. A written contact enables sales representatives to better prove the terms of their agreement. If you cannot get a written contract, you can send a confirmatory letter confirming important terms of employment. When negotiating a contract or sending such a letter, make sure that you are dealing with someone who has authority to bind the company. It is wise to have an attorney negotiate on your behalf.
C. Some Important Terms
Understand how commissions are calculated, when they are payable, what will be deducted from them, and circumstances under which commissions will be split. To ensure that commissions are properly calculated, you will want to receive copies of invoices after shipment to verify their accuracy. Similarly, you will want to understand what expenses are reimbursed.
Define the sales territory including its geographic scope and whether you will you earn commissions for all sales made in it. You will want the company to notify you if it believes corrective action is required and notice of termination before being severed.
D. Termination and Compensation
When the professional relationship is terminated, a salesperson has a right to a final accounting and payment of commissions owed. In New York, compensation is payable within five days of the last day of employment. Some states have enacted sales representative protection statutes that entitle salespersons to a multiple of their wages that were not properly paid plus collection costs.
If you performed services or spent money that benefitted the company, expected to be paid, and were asked to perform the services, and it would be unfair for the company to retain the value without payment, you can recover the fair value of your services.
Even where the employment is at will, a company cannot terminate a salesperson in bad faith to avoid payment of compensation. If you do not receive proper notice as required by the contract, you may be entitled to continued compensation.
E. Enforcing Your Rights
If severed, do not disparage the company. Do not deposit or cash a check that says “full payment” in the memorandum without consulting an attorney. Gather all of your documentation, and review it to determine if you were given proper notice and compensation. An attorney can help you document your protests and claims in an articulate manner.
If you need to negotiate an agreement or obtain unpaid compensation, I can help.
About the Author: Bryan L. Berson, Esq. is an attorney and mediator at The Berson Firm, P.C., a law firm that handles estate administration and planning, real estate, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. His phone number is (631) 517-1055. Connect with The Berson Firm on Facebook and Bryan L. Berson on LinkedIn. The firm’s website is www.bersonfirm.com.
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