In the decision of Horace Henriques, MD v. ClearChoiceMD, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a physician who began work in 2016 at a Lebanon clinic with the promise of a bonus. He received bonuses for several months, however, without prior notice the employer lowered the bonus rate. After he complained about the reduced amount he brought a wage claim at the Department of Labor for $41,000 of unpaid bonuses.
The hearing officer at the Department of Labor found that without receipt of written notification of a change to the bonus plan it was reasonable for the employee to assume his future bonuses would be based on the same plan.
The employer appealed the case to the Superior Court and that court upheld the calculation of wages in the form of a bonus. An appeal was brought to the Supreme Court and it ruled that because the bonuses constitute wages the law requires advance written notice of any change to the employee’s bonus prior to the effective date of change according to RSA 275:49 and the Department of Labor’s Administrative Rule. The Superior Court ALSO reviewed an award of liquidated damages which under the law can result in a doubling of what is owed to the employee.
SUPREME COURT DECISION
However, the Supreme Court said that as long as the employer had a bona fide belief that it was not obligated to pay the bonus in the same amount as had been projected then that would constitute a reason to believe that no wages were owed. In this case there was a legitimate claim on both sides as to how to read the bonus policy and therefore the doubling of the $41,000.00 was not allowed.
If you have an employment-related question on unpaid bonuses or wage and hour violations please contact us at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online contact form. We represent employees at the Department of Labor (DOL) and in all courts.