Employment Law Report

Sixth Circuit Upholds $6 Million Commissions Award

By Debra Dawahare

On October 29, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict awarding two employees over six million dollars in sales commissions.  In Anton v. SBC Global Services, Inc., plaintiffs Pamela Anton and Cheryl Snipes asserted that an implied contract entitled them to these commissions after they helped their employer, a data services provider, obtain a very lucrative contract with a customer, Colin Communications, Inc. 

In upholding the trial court’s judgment in the employees’ favor, the  Sixth Circuit  noted that the parties had agreed that an implied contract existed and that the dispute was simply about its terms.  The employer asserted that the two employees were entitled to about $30,000 in commissions at most.  However, based upon the value of the Colin Communications deal (up to a billion dollars), the employees’ role in landing the deal,  and management’s comments about how profitable it was and how rich the plaintiffs would be once their commissions were paid, the jury and the trial court concluded otherwise.  The  Sixth Circuit also upheld the trial court’s  denial of SBC Global Services, Inc’s post-trial motions to reduce the verdict.   The Court observed that while the plaintiffs were required to prove their damages with reasonable certainty, “mathematical precision” was not required.