What to Do When Your Job Doesn't Pay You

by Ruth Mayhew, Demand Media
    You have several options to consider when you don't get a paycheck.

    You have several options to consider when you don't get a paycheck.

    When you check your bank account or wait for your supervisor to hand a check to you on payday, you expect it to reflect payment for work you performed during the pay period. Panic, disappointment or both can set in when you realize your job hasn’t paid you. How you resolve this depends on the circumstances, including how long it’s been since you were last paid.

    Accurate Records

    Check your pay records, time sheet and bank deposit numbers to ensure your employer has correct information. Also, make sure you have the right pay date. If your paydays are the 15th and last day of the month and that date falls on a weekend, your employer may have a policy of cutting paychecks on the next banking day, which would be the following Monday. If your paychecks have been regularly distributed every other payday, there’s a chance a clerical error or bank snafu could have prevented you from receiving your pay.

    Payroll

    Gather your bank information, time records and notes you’ve made about the missing paycheck. Contact the person responsible for processing payroll or the payroll section of your company’s human resources department. Provide the payroll clerk with this information so the matter can be quickly resolved. If it’s a clerical error, give the payroll clerk the benefit of the doubt; mistakes are inevitable, even with automated, technology-supported payroll.

    Report

    If your company routinely fails to pay you or refuses to pay you, contact the The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in your region or the region where your employer is located. The division’s website contains a list of regional offices and instructions on how to file a formal complaint. You can file anonymously and the division will launch an investigation of the company’s overall pay practices, but if you are the only employee complaining about nonpayment, you'll likely lose your anonymity.

    Late Payments

    Although the FLSA requires companies to pay salaried exempt and hourly non-exempt workers their amounts due, the act doesn’t mandate how often employees must be paid. Many of the states have laws that specifically address the timing of paychecks. Your best course of action is to contact your state labor department for information on how to get paid on time according to your state's law.

    Unequal Pay

    If your pay is not equal to the salary or wages paid to similarly situated co-workers, you may have grounds for filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, based on non-job-related factors such as age, race, national origin, sex or any of the bases protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1964 or the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. These laws prohibit discrimination in pay -- as well as other employment actions, such as hiring, promotion and termination -- based on non-job-related factors. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama. It prohibits pay discrimination based on gender and protects workers against pay disparities for each occurrence of discrimination, meaning each paycheck due the employee.

    Contract

    If you’re an employee under contract via an executive employment agreement, a labor union contract or another form of written or implied contract, review your contract and contact an attorney who specializes in employment and labor law. Discuss your options for recovering payment due based your contract. You may require legal representation to recover promised payment for work performed.

    Closure

    In the unfortunate event that your employer closes its doors and files bankruptcy, you may be protected under federal laws for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Employees are first-priority payees for companies that declare bankruptcy. You must file a wage claim with the court; the upper threshold you can claim is $10,000. The wages you claim must have been earned in the six months prior to the company's bankruptcy filing, so, if your unpaid wages are more than six months old, you may not get paid at all. Companies that file Chapter 11 bankruptcy are expected to pay employees as usual.

    About the Author

    Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

    Photo Credits

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