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Meahan v. Design

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 27, 2013

HENRY MEAHAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MICHAEL ANTHONY SIGN DESIGN, Defendant-Respondent.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued December 17, 2013.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-3648-12.

Henry Meahan, appellant, argued the cause pro se.

Peter J. Vazquez, Jr., argued the cause for respondent (The Vazquez Law Firm, attorneys; Mr. Vazquez, on the brief.)

Before Judges Sabatino and Hayden.

PER CURIAM.

This appeal arises out of a determination, after a de novo trial in the Law Division, rejecting plaintiff Henry Meahan's claim that his former employer, defendant Michael Anthony Sign Design, failed to pay him wages and commissions in alleged violation of the Wage Collection Law, N.J.S.A. 34:11-57 to -67. Plaintiff contends that the trial court's decision was flawed in several respects and that the court misapplied its discretion in denying him a continuance of trial to call an additional witness. We affirm.

We derive the following factual and procedural background from the appellate record.

Plaintiff began working as a sales representative for defendant on April 4, 2011. As he described it, plaintiff "was responsible for the sale of signs and awnings to customers, " most of whom were commercial. His job responsibilities included "going out in the field, doing site surveys, negotiating the terms of the deal with . . . the customers, . . . getting quotes done in-house and presenting . . . them to the customer."

Plaintiff accepted the sales position with defendant in response to an e-mail from defendant's Chief Executive Officer, Michael Bradley, dated March 14, 2011. With respect to plaintiff's initial terms of compensation, the e-mail read in pertinent part:

We offer the following compensation for your efforts: You will be partnered with an estimator that will perform take offs and prepare estimates while you['re] out shaking the tree. First year conservative sales projection from cold deals $800, 000 plus we will throw $300, 000 of inhouse business from existing contacts. Base salary to cover all expenses . . . . $500. week. plus 5% on gross sale.
If you are active that will be $81K first year. We will keep you at 5% on gross plus base for a second year and your potential will be min 150K plus. We can go for a third year with same terms and the potential is exponential. Please look at the big picture and the long term potential. Respond ASAP.

[(Emphasis added).]

It is undisputed that plaintiff agreed to these initial terms as offered in the e-mail.

About a month after plaintiff began working for the company, Bradley presented him with a written employment agreement. According to plaintiff's trial testimony, he refused to sign that agreement because he felt that several of its terms, including a non-compete clause[1], were unfair. With respect to compensation, the unsigned May 2011 agreement stated as follows:

As compensation for the services rendered, Employee shall receive for the first full calendar year of days worked the following: Base Salary $26, 000 and 5% commission on gross sales closed personally beginning on May 5, 2011.
Employer shall pay to Employee a salary in addition to Employee due and payable commissions, amounting to the sum of $500.00 per week, as outlined above, less payroll taxes if applicable, to be paid bi-weekly in accord with Employer regular payroll cycle. Employer reserves the right to alter or suspend privileges as well as terminate Employee agreement at any time, without prior notice in the event outlined sales quotas are not met, or unacceptable workday absence, customer complaints or charge backs occur. Incentives to be paid on an as-earned basis.
The commission rates and time periods set forth in this paragraph shall commence as of the date of the first invoice on the contract; provided, however that no commission will be due and payable to the Employee until 10 days from the receipt of the payment of Employer from any Customer on the contract for any underlying invoice. . . . Any and all commission payable to Employer to Employee under this agreement shall terminate on the 28th day of the First Full month after termination of this Agreement ...

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