How do I begin the legal process to collect wages owed to me?

Wages owed how do I get my employer to pay?

Recently on our forum a user asked, “If I work for a trucking company and they have not paid for me for my hours worked, nor hours I spent in training, what are my rights and what do I need to do to collect the benefits owed?”

Hourly workers and their right to minimum wage

Under the Fair Labor and Standards Act, hourly workers are legally required to be paid for every hour they have worked. If you have not been paid, you may have a right to file a legal claim against your employer.

For instance, if you are an hourly worker you are entitled to earn at least the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. Some states, however, have established a higher hourly minimum wage which you would be entitled to receive.

A violation of minimum wage laws can also occur, however, if your employer pays you more than the hourly wage but takes too many deductions, thus leaving you with less than the minimum hourly wage (i.e. underpaying tipped employees or taking too many deductions for employment expenses).

What constitutes an hourly wage violation?

Employers may also violate hourly wage regulations if they do not pay their employees for work-related travel time, training programs, rest breaks which the employee works, or time the employer has requested the employee arrive on the premises prior to the official “clocking in” time.

Employers may also be in violation of state or federal laws if they do not pay the employee within a specified time-frame. For example, some states require employees to be paid every two week or within a specific number of days from the date the work was performed.

Am I entitled to vacation time?

As an hourly worker you may not be entitled to vacation time. If you have questions about your employment agreement and whether you should be receiving vacation or holiday pay talk to your employer.

Legal Remedies to collect unpaid wages

So what should our worker do if his employer is violating the law? If employers are not paying wages on time, not paying the agreed upon wage (or not paying at all), not paying vacation or sick pay (if required), or failing to pay overtime, it is time to talk to the employer.

If your employer has no explanation, does not care, or refuses to help you, it is time to talk to the agency in your state that deals with wage enforcement. For example, in the state of California workers can contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. This agency has a website with information about filing a claim for unpaid wages. The agency will review the claim and will either schedule a dispute conference, refer the dispute to a hearing, or dismiss the claim.

Another course of action is to file a private lawsuit against your employer. If you win your claim you may receive unpaid wages for hours you worked, overtime wages, and in some cases, punitive damages. Talk to an employment lawyer if you have more questions about your case.

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