Is it legal for an employer to pay me 2 weeks late?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have worked at a construction company for several years. Money must be tight because our employer has started paying us a week or two late each month. I am wondering if this is legal and what I can do to ensure I get my payments on time. I like my boss, but I have bills to pay and have more than one bill has bounced when the direct deposit did not get to my checking account on time.”

Employer fails to pay you a wage

If you have put in a hard day’s work you expect to be compensated. Rules for compensation are determined by your contract for employment, your state’s labor laws, and federal laws regarding wages.

For example, under the Fair Labors Standards Act (FLSA) employers are required to pay “covered, nonexempt employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week.”

And while this law has generally been applied to nonpayment or a failure of the employer to pay the required wages, courts have also ruled that the law can be applied to late payment of wages.

Specifically, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the law could be applied to late payments because the law “is there to protect those who are receiving a minimum wage and are living from paycheck to paycheck. A delay of a few days or a week in the remittance of wages may only be a minor inconvenience to some, but for those at the lower end of the economic scale, even a brief delay can have serious and immediate adverse consequences.”

What if my employer pays me late?

So what do you do if your employer pays you late? If your employer continually pays you late there are certain steps you should take. First, review the terms of your employment contract. Next, talk to your employer. In many cases a simple conversation is all that is needed to clear up a misunderstanding.

If you have taken the above steps but have not received a resolution you then need to review whether your state has an employment agency which can help you with your claim. For example, in California, workers may be able to file a claim with the Division of Labors Standards Enforcement. The claim will then be investigated by the agency and a decision will be made. For example, the agency will decide whether the dispute will be resolved in conference, through a hearing, or whether it will be dismissed.

Another option to seek payment is to file a civil suit against your employer. If you win your suit you may be entitled to back wages, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Additionally, the judge or jury may also have discretion to award the you up to three times the amount of actual wages due.

What if I am a contractor?

What happens if you are an independent contractor who has not been paid for contracted work? Contractors will not have the legal right to file wage claims. Contractors can, however, sue their employer for breach of contract. This claim may be filed in small claims court, although states will have a limit to the amount of compensation which can be collected in this particular court.

Before filing a claim it’s important to review your contractor contract and understand the limits of the small claims court.

The good news is that you may not need a lawyer to file your claim in small claims court. The bad news is you will still have to provide sufficient evidence that your contract was breached and you were injured or suffered loss as a result of the breach.

Furthermore, some contractors have been misidentified as contractors simply so an employer may eliminate certain employment obligations. If you have questions about your classification as a contractor or believe you might actually be an employee, contact a labor attorney for more information about your rights.

Bottom line:

There are laws which can protect you from nonpayment from your employer.

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