Financial advisors and other employees in the financial services industry frequently face employment issues and concerns such as wage and hour violations, failure to receive reimbursement for business-related expenses, commission disputes, disputes over deferred compensation, and being forced to sign illegal arbitration agreements. What can complicate matters even more is the fact that they work in a highly regulated and scrutinized industry and are subject to oversight by FINRA, the SEC and other local, state, and federal law enforcement entities. Employment matters for employees in the securities industry can have a major impact on compensation, future opportunities, and their overall professional reputation that can follow them around for years. When financial or investment advisors, personal bankers, and stockbrokers are treated unlawfully and unfairly by their employers or are caught up in regulatory enforcement actions and investigations, they need the help of an experienced employment attorney to navigate the challenging landscape of the financial industry and to protect and enforce their legal employment rights.
If you’re an employee in the securities industry whose rights haven’t been properly observed, it’s important to work with a strong, experienced law group like Clapp & Lauinger LLP to ensure your rights are respected and that any compensation or benefits that is owed to you is recovered.
Many financial advisors and other financial services employees are expected to pay business-related expenses out of their own pockets or to fund those expenses through deductions from their commission earnings. But according to California Labor Code section 2802, employers are required to reimburse employees for all reasonable and necessary expenses the employee incurs in the course of his or her job duties. Some expenses that financial advisors and financial services employees are illegally required to pay are:
If you are having trouble getting your employer to reimburse the expenses that you are owed, we may be able to help you recover those.
Financial advisors and financial services employees work long hours, but most employers treat them as “exempt” and refuse to pay them overtime wages. But under California law, one of the requirements of being an exempt employee is receiving a monthly salary of no less than twice the California minimum wage (currently $5,373 per month). This is called the “salary basis” requirement. Many employers argue they meet the “salary basis” requirement by paying their employees a draw against their future commission earnings. But a draw does not qualify as a salary if the employer recovers any draw deficits from the employee. For example, if an employee receives a $6,000 per month draw but earns only $5,000 that month in commissions, if the employer does anything to try to recover the $1,000 deficit from the employee (such as deducting the $1,000 from future commission earnings), the draw is not a salary for purposes of the salary basis test. This means the employee is non-exempt and therefore is entitled to overtime pay.
Commission plans in the financial services industry are often very complex. Some employers refuse to honor commission agreements or unnecessarily delay payment of commissions that are owed. Other employers attempt to dock, reduce, or “claw-back” commission payments due to events outside the control of the employee. In some cases, these claw-back provisions are illegal under California law.
As an employee in the securities industry, you may be asked to sign a contract that includes an arbitration clause. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution that allows an arbitrator the authority to make a decision about a dispute that you may have with your employer instead of taking your case to court. If your clause states that arbitration is mandatory, you will be forced to waive your right and opportunity for judicial attention and be required to appear before an arbitrator whose opinion or award will be final.
It’s important to have an experienced employment attorney review any agreement or contract before signing. Many agreements contain provisions that are illegal under California law. If you’ve already signed an agreement and are unsure of what is considered legally binding or not, the highly skilled employment attorneys at Clapp & Lauinger LLP can help advise you.
Working with an experienced Carlsbad financial advisor employment attorney who has a deep knowledge and understanding of the securities industry and its complexities can be a significant benefit for those asserting their rights. At Clapp & Lauinger LLP, we have the requirements to address the employment issues you may be facing. We are dedicated to helping our clients work through the appropriate channels to address their situation as they seek the compensation and restitution that they are owed. If you have an employment issue that you believe may be a violation of your rights as a financial or investment advisor, stockbroker, or personal banker, contact us today.