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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Working Without Pay

Dear Sue: I am a commissioned sales rep and I work for a company that is going through some financial difficulties. They’ve recently stopped paying my commissions and when I asked my supervisor about it, she said that there is no money to pay me right now. She told me that they were waiting to see whether the company would be sold or whether it would have to file Chapter 11. However, I found out that the people on salary are being paid. I don't know what to do.

Do I keep working or refuse to work until I get paid? If I refuse to work and everything ends up just fine, then I'm afraid I'll look bad because I didn't stand by the company. It doesn't seem right that the salaried employees are being paid while I am not. I don't want to jeopardize my job, but I can't work without getting paid for long. Do you have any ideas on how to handle this?

--Not a volunteer worker

Sue Says: Without more information about the company, it is difficult to advise you. Try to determine more about the company's status, and why you are being told there is no money for you when others are being paid.

If you believe your supervisor has a clear understanding of the situation and that it is indeed temporary, then continue to work. You don't want to involve your customers if you don't have to, so try to conduct business as usual.

Tell your supervisor that you are willing to continue working in good faith, but only for a certain amount of time. Determine a time frame you can live with, perhaps a couple of months. If within a few months nothing has changed, you might consider looking for another job.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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