A New Jersey District Court has allowed an independent sales representative to proceed with his lawsuit against his principal company for failing to pay his earned sales commissions. This case reaffirms New Jersey’s strong public policy in assuring sales representatives are timely paid their earned sales commissions.
Prior to New Jersey passing the Sales Representatives’ Rights Act, independent sales representatives often faced an uphill battle when it came to legal disputes concerning unpaid commissions. As an independent contractor who is paid on a 1099 basis, New Jersey Wage Payment law does not protect independent sales representatives from being paid their sales commissions because they are not considered employees under the law. In recognizing the need to protect independent sales representatives from receiving their hard-earned commissions, New Jersey enacted the New Jersey Sales Representatives’ Rights Act that allows for sales representatives to sue for their unpaid earned commissions and imposes significant penalties against principals for failing to pay the commissions in a timely manner.
In the recent case TLE Marketing Co. v. WBM, LLC, No. CV-17-11752 Slip Op. (D.N.J. Sep. 14, 2018) the plaintiff raised a novel argument that, if successful, could expand the reach of the Act. TLE Marketing Corporation is an independent sales agency based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has been providing marketing and sales representation for companies since 1976. WBM, LLC is a developer, importer, and distributor of a variety of distinctive products, with a primary focus on Himalayan salt products. WBM is based out of Flemington, New Jersey and has been in business for over 20 years. Starting in 2007, TLE and WBM began working together, signing a sales representative contract that provided that TLE would market and sell WBM products. The two companies enjoyed a lengthy business relationship of almost 10 years until, in June 2017, WBM terminated the sales representative contract. In response, TLE filed a complaint in Minnesota alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, and failure to pay commissions in violation of Minnesota state statute.