How to Report Unpaid Wages and Recover Back Pay
All non-exempt employees must be paid at least the minimum wage mandated by the state in which they work or the federal government and receive overtime pay for any time they work over a certain number of hours per workday or per workweek. If you have been wrongfully denied wages for work performed or have unpaid wages, you are entitled to recover any back pay, as well as, reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, interest, and liquidated damages equal to the amount of back pay you are owed.
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt, Employee vs. Independent Contractor
State wage and hour regulations vary and can be complex and employers often misclassify non-exempt employees as exempt. Whether your employer has misclassified you as exempt intentionally or unintentionally, it can result in you being underpaid.
Employers also have a hard time differentiating workers who should be classified as employees from those who should be classified as independent contractors. Workers who are independent contractors are not entitled to overtime pay. If your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor, you may be owed a significant amount in unpaid overtime.
There are many exceptions to wage and hour laws that might apply to you and the legal tests to determine if you are an exempt or non-exempt employee, an employee or independent contractor, can be quite confusing. Therefore, if you think that you have been underpaid because your employer has misclassified your employment status, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney who can evaluate the nature of your employment and determine if you have indeed been misclassified.
Recovering What You are Owed
Federal and state wage and hour regulations are designed to protect employees who are not paid the wages they are rightfully owed. Thus, if you have been wrongfully denied wages for any reason, you are entitled to report your unpaid wages to your state’s department of labor or to the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor (WHD) who can order your employer to pay you what they owe you.
You may also file a lawsuit against your employer to recover back pay for unpaid wages that you are legally owed, which could amount to thousands of dollars. In addition, your employer may be ordered to pay you liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid wages you are owed, as well as, your attorney’s fees and legal costs.
Other Remedies Available
An employee who has not been paid wages that they are legitimately owed may also have other claims. For example, if you were not paid your final paycheck because you got into a heated argument with your boss, you may also have a claim for compensation under failure to pay minimum wage. This is because you worked a certain amount of hours and didn’t receive any compensation at all.
Courts are even harsher on employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and the laws governing the minimum wage are even more favorable to employees in these situations. In these cases, employees are usually entitled to recover a mandatory award of attorney’s fees. These kinds of claims usually settle early on because employers know that if they go to trial and lose, they will be liable to pay your attorney’s fees.
Contact An Experienced Employment Law Attorney
For help recovering unpaid wages, contact an experienced employment law attorney. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation and handle employment law cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you will owe them nothing unless they obtain a recovery on your behalf.