How to File an Unpaid Wages Claim in New York

File an Unpaid Wages Claim in New York

As an employee in New York, you are eligible to file a complaint in case your employer failed to pay you a part or all the wages you earned. The law requires employers to pay wages on time – if your employer hasn’t paid you, you should first demand your wages. If that doesn’t work, then you should seek the help of a wage and hour lawyer and take the matter to court. To determine the wages you are owed, your attorney will investigate your claim by using the information provided by you.

Employers can conduct wage theft in various ways, such as:

  • Failing to pay minimum wages and overtime compensation
  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • Forcing employees to work off the clock (during meal breaks or before and/or after regular shifts)
  • Taking Illegal deductions in pay
  • Misappropriating tips from tipped employees

Penalties for Wage Violations

The FLSA requires New York employers to pay overtime.  You can’t sign away your right to that money or agree to waive overtime payments.  Although the FLSA doesn’t allow employers to cheat their employees, that doesn’t mean you are automatically entitled to overtime compensation . To collect that money, you need to take action within a reasonable time. There is a statute of limitations on wage and hour claims for unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation. Past a certain date, you lose the right to collect your unpaid wages.

Furthermore, there are types of jobs that are exempt from overtime provisions or any protection under the FLSA:

In the state of New York, employees who file an unpaid wage claim can collect an additional sum called liquidated damages. If your wage claim includes wage and hour violations, as well as violations of meals and rest breaks and overtime law, you can collect the total of your unpaid wages as liquidated damages. For instance, if you’re owed $2,000 in unpaid minimum wage and overtime, you can also collect another $2,000 in liquidated damages (for a total of $4,000).

If the case is successful, employees are entitled to collect unpaid wages, as well as:

  • Legal costs
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Interest on your unpaid wages

Your employer also needs to provide with certain information or notices, such as:

  • Wage statements. Employers must provide an employee a wage statement for each pay period. The wage statement should include information such as the period of time covered, the number of hours worked, the rate of pay, deductions made, and other information. If the employer fails to provide the employee with a wage statement each week, the employee can collect up to $5,000 ($250 for each day the violation continues).
  • Notice of pay rate. New York employers are also obliged to provide you with a written wage notice at the time of hire. The notice of pay rate includes the employer’s legal business name, your rate of pay, and other information. If you don’t receive that notice within ten business days of the start of your employment, you can collect $50 for each workday that your employer’s violation continues (up to a maximum of $5,000).

Advantages of Hiring A Wage and Hour Attorney

To the surprise of many, you may end up hurting your chances of winning an unpaid wages claim when you attempt to do it on your own. Finding a lawyer who is experienced in handling unpaid wage claims should be your first step after realizing you have not been receiving fair wages. The main reason you should speak with a lawyer is to make sure that your rights are being protected,  and that you maximize your monetary recovery . Here are the benefits of working with an unpaid wages attorney:

  • Avoid employer retaliation

In certain cases, it happens that employers unlawfully retaliate and fire employees from their jobs when they begin complaining about not being paid in accordance with the law.  . If you hire an attorney, this may be less likely. Employment law attorneys can help you determine whether your employer has violated state or federal laws and present you all the options of challenging that illegal conduct.

Federal laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)are  intended to protect workers against unfair pay practices.

  • Exploring all options

If you don’t know whether you have a case worth pursuing, you can discuss it with a wage and hour attorney. While there are other options, such as filing a claim with the New York State Department of Labor, that  may come with certain disadvantages, including a much longer litigation time (cases before the DOL often take up to four years to get resolved), and a lower financial recovery

  • Bringing well-informed decisions

To get a full assessment of your potential claims and  the damages you can recover, it is worth your time to get professional help. You should have legal advice since your employer will certainly have the advantage of legal counsel.


New York’s employers must pay their workers all of the minimum wages, as well as overtime they are owed under the FLSA and New York Labor Law. In the event they fail to do so, you should seek assistance from a qualified and respected wage and hour firm who can help you make well-informed decisions and determine whether you have a claim worth pursuing. Each year, American workers lose billions of dollars to wage violations, which is a form of wage theft. If you have an issue with your employer and want to recover unpaid wages, contact Cilenti & Cooper. We are the premier wage and hour law firm in New York City, and can help you in fighting to recover your unpaid wages.



Let us fight to recover the wages you have earned.

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