The Super Bowl and Employment Law: Incentive Compensation on the Field and in the Office

Feb 5 2024

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. What are we gonna talk about today?

Goodbaum: Well, I wanna talk about football because it is Super Bowl week. We’re gearing up for the 49ers and the Chiefs, and you know, we can’t help ourselves: we like to relate everything in our lives back to what we do, which is employment law.

Okay, these players on the 49ers and the Chiefs are probably getting a lot of money for what their teams have been able to accomplish. They get money for getting to the conference championship, they get money for winning the conference championship, they get money to get to the Super Bowl, and if they win the Super Bowl, it’s more money, plus a trip to the White House, probably.

So, obviously, not everybody is a professional athlete. But lots of employees in Connecticut and around the country do have incentive structures in their compensation. They might have certain benchmarks they need to hit to get more money; they might be working on commissions; and so I thought I would ask: What do employees need to know if they’ve got these different compensation structures that might look a little bit like professional football players, even if they’re only professional football players in their own minds?

DeMatteis: Yeah, it is a fun week, no matter whether you’re rooting for the teams, no matter if you’re just trying to see Taylor Swift on TV for a couple minutes. But this is an important question because folks in Connecticut, maybe on a little bit of a different scale, are also being paid incentive compensation, and there’s a few different ways that you can get paid that compensation.

The first is your own individual performance. Think about: “Amanda, you need to make 20 widgets. After you make 20 widgets, I’m going to pay you X.” So, as long as you hold up your end of the bargain and you make those 20 widgets, then your employer has to pay you whatever compensation that the two of you have agreed upon. Think about the Chiefs beating the Ravens last week, right, and becoming the AFC champions. They have met that requirement under their employment contract. They have been paid that amount of money for meeting that requirement. Done. Really nothing else to talk about.

But some incentive compensation, especially for employees in Connecticut, doesn’t only have to do with your own individual performance; it also has to do with the performance of the team, right? So maybe part of this compensation is: “Well, you need to reach X quota, Amanda, but so does the team. The team needs to sell X number of dollars in whatever it is the company is selling.” Well, then that pay is not only conditioned upon your individual performance, but it’s also conditioned maybe upon the performance of the company as a whole. This gets a little bit more tricky. There are a lot of different policies that employers have that say that, in order to receive that type of compensation, you need to be employed at the company at the time that bonus or that compensation is paid, and if you’re not, you’re no longer entitled to it.

So, think about how this plays out in practice. Maybe your fiscal or commission year is January 1st to December 31st. You’ve completed that year of work; you’ve done everything you needed to do to hold up your individual end of the bargain; and maybe the benchmarks in place for the employer have also been met. But that payment isn’t gonna be made until March 15th of the following year. Well, if you decide to quit on February 1st, you might be precluding yourself from being eligible for that payment that is supposed to be made on March 15th.

So, you have to be really, really careful when you’re gonna decide, “You know what? I’m gonna leave my current job to go to a different one.” The last thing you wanna do is leave any money on the table. So, before you make a quick decision, maybe chat with an employment lawyer and find out if there’s something you need to know before leaving one employer to go to the next so that you can get all of that money that the Chiefs and the 49ers are getting this week.

What do you think about that, Josh? Good advice?

Goodbaum: Well, I think you did well to bring it back to football, Amanda. It’s always fun talking to you. I never know if this is actually useful to anybody, but I hope it is, and I hope all of you enjoy watching the game this weekend. Take it easy.

DeMatteis: We’ll see you.

Share this Post

josh goodbaum discussing incentive compensation

About the Author

Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.

You deserve justice. We are here to fight for you.

Best Lawyers

Let Us Review Your Case

    We will respond to your message promptly. Although we will keep your message strictly confidential, please note that contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

    Client Experiences

    During a very difficult employment situation, I was referred to Joe Garrison. Recognizing the volatile and time sensitive nature of my employment situation, Mr. Garrison met with me immediately (on the weekend no less). He listened to the details of my case, was able to think through possible creative solutions to offer the employer, and was responsive to my myriad of questions. He understood my concerns about litigation versus settlement, and he worked to find the best resolution possible. I am grateful to have had his support at a very difficult time. —J.C., New Haven, CT

    You will never meet a more knowledgeable and compassionate professional than Steve Fitzgerald. My employment situation was very complex, and Attorney Fitzgerald kept me focused while remaining extremely adept and “thinking on his feet.” Should the need present itself again, I would never seek anyone else’s counsel regarding employment issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough. — J.R., New Haven, CT

    Nina Pirrotti provided outstanding legal advice and was trustworthy, dependable, and responsive. From the start, I was confident that her knowledge and experience would obtain favorable results. On a more personal note, I enjoyed working with her and her staff and felt I was included in every part of the process. The dedication, concern, and interest in me as a client was greatly appreciated, and Nina has earned my highest recommendation. — J.H., Monroe, CT

    I recently found myself in need of a lawyer in handling a dispute with my former employer. I was fortunate to retain Josh Goodbaum as my legal counsel. His legal skills knowledge and professionalism shone through in every step of the process resulting in a very positive result. I highly recommend Josh if you find yourself in need of legal counsel. — S.R., Guilford, CT

    When I go to a lawyer for advice, I am usually anxious, particularly the first meeting. Amanda DeMatteis was clear in describing my options and immediately set me at ease. Realistic assessment is important, and Amanda was clear as to how to set up the case and the direction she felt we should go. I had total confidence in her abilities and knew I was being well represented against a large corporation. More importantly, we were successful! —N.M., Haddam, CT

    Proven Results & Personalized Attention When You Need It Most

    American Law Institute Super Lawyers American College of Trial Lawyers Best Lawyers The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
    Back to Top
    (203) 815-1716