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Jury awards MA Wage Act verdict to sales executive

Christopher R. O’Hara obtained a judgment of $522,806 against a New York-based software company based on a Suffolk County jury verdict in favor of his executive sales client.  The original jury verdict awarded was trebled to $169,851, plus accrued statutory interest of $27,955, and attorneys’ fees and costs of $325,000. 

The defendant, which develops and sells software to large institutions, terminated the firm’s client in December 2019 allegedly because he didn’t meet a quarterly sales quota, even though he met his annual sales targets in two of his three-year-plus tenure with the company.  The defendant paid Todd & Weld’s client only a portion of his incentive compensation, but not his accelerator commission, on the disputed deal. 

Following the six-day trial in the Suffolk Superior Court and two hours of deliberations, the jury determined that the defendant employer violated the Massachusetts Wage Act by denying his client fully earned incentive compensation, including his accelerator commission, related to a $2.3 million software sale he made in December 2018. 

Earlier in the case, a judge rejected the defendant company’s request for summary judgment.  The company argued that it had complete discretion whether to award the commission, based on provisions in the commission plan related to splitting commissions among several employees based on contributions to a sale.

The judge wrote that the “central problem with [the company’s] argument … is that there is zero evidence in the record that it relied on those provisions in deciding to pay [the firm’s client] only a partial commission.”  Instead, the company simply decided not to pay the commission and dared the firm’s client to sue if he was unhappy with that decision, the judge found.