A group of Empire Today salespeople have sued the suburban Chicago-based seller of home flooring and window treatments, saying their employer has wrongly blamed computer problems for allegedly consistently shorting them the commissions and other pay they believe they should have been owed based on their performances.
On Sept. 20, four people filed a potential class action complaint in Chicago federal court against Empire Today LLC, alleging the Northlake company could owe hundreds of workers potentially thousands of dollars each under the terms of the employment agreements allegedly violated by Empire.
Plaintiffs named in the action include Kevin Wielgus, an Illinois resident identified as Empire’s division manager of retail sales at its Naperville and Schaumburg stores; Mark Costigan, an Illinois resident identified as sales manager at Empire’s Schaumburg store; Sheryl Pascoe, an Illinois resident identified as a former sales employee at the Schaumburg location; and Tom Ringelstein, identified as an independent contractor who has worked for Empire since 2012.
The complaint noted Empire employs commissioned sales personnel at stores elsewhere in Illinois, New York, Virginia, Florida and Arizona, while also contracting with “commissioned independent contractors” to sell products direct to consumers in their homes in “approximately 77 different markets throughout the United States.”
According to the complaint, Wielgus, Costigan and Ringelstein were each employees of former Empire competitor, Luna Flooring. Empire kept them on as employees when it acquired Luna in 2012, according to the complaint.
In the years since the acquisition, the complaint alleged Empire had gradually migrated the former Luna employees from the Luna commission and bonus system, which was calculated using the formerly proprietary Luna software.
According to the complaint, Empire “began to phase out” the Luna calculation system in early 2016, and “permanently disabled” the Luna system in June.
During the migration process, the sales people alleged they were routinely shorted commissions and bonuses they should have been due. At times, they alleged the shortfalls amounted to as much as $1,000 per month.
From February to June 2016, the complaint said Empire “reconciled some errors … by comparing the commission amount dictated by the Empire computer system to the commission amount dictated by the Luna computer system.”
However, once the old Luna system as shut down, the plaintiffs alleged Empire “continued to receive commissions and bonuses in amounts that were far below what they had actually earned.” They alleged Empire continued to do so because it knew the employees would now have “no measure by which to independently assess their commissions.”
The plaintiffs said they notified Empire “on many occasions” of the pay shortages.
However, the plaintiffs said they believe “the problem with Empire’s computer system and the underpayment of commissions and bonuses was a global issue that applies to all employees and independent sales representatives, and of which Empire was fully aware at all times.”
They said Empire has consistently refused to fix the problems and has allegedly refused to pay its workers the commissions and bonuses they believe they are due.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to approve the creation of a class of additional plaintiffs, including all “retail sales employees or shop-at-home independent sales representatives during the period February 2016 to the present.”
They have asked the court to order Empire to pay the named plaintiffs and the class “an amount equal to … unpaid commissions, bonuses and other compensation due under their contracts,” plus attorney fees, and to issue an injunction ordering Empire to fix the alleged computer system problems.
The Empire employees are represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Tabet DiVito & Rothstein, of Chicago.