Can I Sue My Employer For Unpaid Wages?

Can I Sue My Employer For Unpaid Wages

If you are an employee working in New York who has not been paid the wages you are owed, you may be wondering if you can sue your employer. 

The answer to this question is yes – employees in New York can sue their employers for unpaid wages. Several different wage violations can occur, and it is important to know your rights as an employee. 

In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of unpaid wage violations that can occur and how to report unpaid wages. We will also talk about what happens if an employee sues their employer for unpaid wages.

Types of Wage Violations and Theft

Before pursuing a case against your employer for not paying you wages, it is important to know the different types of unpaid wage violations that can occur. Common unpaid wage violations include:

  • Not paying minimum wage
  • Not paying overtime wages
  • Requiring employees to work off the clock (without pay)
  • Failing to pay for all hours worked
  • Misclassifying employees as unpaid interns
  • Withholding wages or tips illegally
  • Taking illegal payroll deductions
  • Requiring employees to work without proper rest breaks

It is important to note that unpaid wage violations can also be considered theft. This means if you are successful in suing your employer for unpaid wages, they could face criminal charges as well as civil penalties.

Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay wage violations

An employee has every right to sue their employer if they are not paid the minimum wage as required by law. The same goes for unpaid overtime wages.

The Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law set the minimum wage for all employees working in New York State. As of 2023, the minimum wage is $15 per hour for most businesses.

If an employee has worked more than forty hours per work week, they are entitled to overtime pay as required by both federal and state laws. Overtime pay is calculated at one and a half times the employee’s regular pay rate.

So, if an employee makes $15 per hour, they should be paid $22.50 for any hours worked beyond forty in that work week.

Employers who violate these laws can face serious penalties, including penalties and possibly criminal charges.

However, some employees may be exempt from overtime pay. This is usually the case for executive, administrative, or professional employees (EAP) who make a salary of at least $684 per week. 

If an employer misclassified an employee as exempt when they should be paid overtime wages, the employer is violating the labor laws.

Working off the clock

This wage violation occurs when an employer requires employees to work unpaid hours, such as staying late to finish a project or coming in early to get ready for the day.

In some cases, employers will ask employees to do unpaid tasks during their lunch breaks or even after they go home for the day.

Employers are not allowed to require unpaid work from their employees unless the unpaid work is for a charitable organization or other volunteer efforts.

If your employer is asking you to do unpaid work, you have every right to sue them for unpaid wages.

Not paying all hours worked

Employers often try to avoid paying employees for hours worked by not keeping track of time or making it difficult for employees to submit accurate time sheets.

Employers are required to pay for all hours worked, no matter how small the task may be. If you believe your employer is not paying you for all hours worked, you have every right to sue them for unpaid wages.

Misclassifying employees as unpaid interns

 Employers often try to avoid paying wages by misclassifying employees as unpaid interns or as managers. Interns are not considered employees and therefore do not have the same rights or protections as regular employees. Managers may also be exempt from receiving overtime compensation, but specific requirements must be met before an employee can be considered a manager under the law. 

If you believe your employer has misclassified you as an unpaid intern or manager, you can sue them for unpaid wages.

Withholding wages or tips illegally

Employers are not allowed to withhold wages or tips from employees, either by choice or because of a mistake. If you believe your employer has illegally withheld wages or tips from you, you can sue them for unpaid wages. 

Taking illegal payroll deductions

Employers are not allowed to take illegal payroll deductions from their employee’s paychecks. This includes deductions for unpaid bills, taxes, or other expenses that should be the employer’s responsibility.

If you believe your employer is taking illegal payroll deductions from your paycheck, you can sue them for unpaid wages.

Requiring employees to work without proper rest breaks

Employers are required to provide their employees with unpaid rest breaks of at least thirty minutes for every four hours worked. If your employer is violating this law and requiring you to work without proper breaks, you can sue them for unpaid wages. 

How to report wage violations?

An employee can contact an employment lawyer to learn their options. This can be done either individually or as a class action (a group of coworkers).

Wage violation lawsuits can be challenging, but they can be easier with the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney.

What happens when an employee sues their employer?

Employees who successfully sue their employers for wage violations are entitled to a variety of monetary damages, including interest, back pay, liquidated and statutory damages.

Interest/Liquidated Damages: Under state law, an employee can sue their employer for failing to pay wages correctly, including unpaid wages and the interests charged. Depending on the circumstances, employees may receive liquidated damages instead of interest payments.

Back Pay Recovery: An employee has the right to recover any money owed to them by their employer that was not paid correctly, either by not paying minimum wages or overtime or by taking illegal deductions from their paycheck. Employees must prove they put in a specific number of hours at a specific pay rate to pursue back-pay claims.

Liquidated Damages: Several states require employers who fail to pay their employees accurately to pay the penalty. In this case, the employer must also pay a monetary fine in addition to covering all other damages.


Unpaid wages are a serious issue that can have far-reaching consequences.

When unpaid wages occur, employees have the right to sue their employers for unpaid wages, as well as all applicable damages and interest. Depending on the circumstances, an employee is entitled to a back pay recovery, compensatory damages, liquidated and statutory damages.

If unpaid wages are an issue, it is important to understand your rights and find the best course of action that serves you best. Consider consulting with an experienced wage and hour lawyer.

Although filing a lawsuit can be intimidating, it is essential to address and resolve unpaid wages. Doing so will help ensure unpaid wages do not occur in the future, protecting other workers from similar situations.

You can make a difference in your workplace by reporting unpaid wages and speaking up for what’s fair and just. No one should have to work without being paid for their hard work.

To find out whether you have a case worth pursuing, feel free to contact Cilenti & Cooper today. We treat every case with the attention and care it deserves and can fight for your rights from beginning to end. We offer a free consultation to all of our prospective clients, so you have nothing to lose.



Let us fight to recover the wages you have earned.

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