Court rejects HPE Australia's appeal of unpaid commissions case

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Court rejects HPE Australia's appeal of unpaid commissions case

HPE Australia’s bid to overturn a court ruling in 2020, ordering it to pay its former employee $370,000 in unpaid commissions, has been rejected by the ACT Supreme Court.

The court dismissed the company’s appeal last week after the panel of judges ruled that the initial judge made the correct decision and that HPE will pay the owed commissions.

The ruling said HPE’s sales program was enforceable in contract and that the company breached its own terms when it decided to place a cap on the commissions.

A cross-appeal filed by the employee seeking a higher interest payment from HPE was also dismissed.

HPE appealed the decision and raised the employee’s eligibility to the allegedly unpaid commission based on its employment agreement and sales program, and whether an implied term of good faith was applied to HPE’s approval of the commissions.

“Our conclusions concerning the existence of contractual obligations and their content render it unnecessary to resolve some of the grounds of appeal. To the extent that the primary judge erred in the construction of the contract or in other respects, the errors did not materially affect the outcome so as to justify interference with the award of damages that was made,” the decision read.

“In the circumstances, it is unnecessary to determine those grounds of appeal giving rise to arguments not specifically referred to in these reasons. The appeal should be dismissed with costs.”

On top of the $371,318.59 in unpaid commissions from the initial ruling, HPE has been ordered to pay the former employee’s costs of the appeal. The employee also had to pay HPE’s costs for the cross-appeal.

Speaking on the decision, an HPE spokesperson told CRN, “We are disappointed in the outcome. Our compensation policies have been continually reviewed in the last 10 years, and we are confident HPE compensates fairly and commensurate with the market.”

In January 2020, ACT Supreme Court associate judge Verity McWilliam ordered HPE to pay one of its former employees $309,750.39 in unpaid commissions, plus interest of $61,568.19. The company was also ordered to pay for the employee’s costs for the trial.

The employee claimed she surpassed her sales target more than five times and was therefore entitled to commission of $446,250.39. She instead received $136,500 and HPE retroactively capped commission payments to 3.5 times of the target incentive amount.

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