Your rent is due, the bills are piling up, and you need to buy food, and yet, you still didn’t receive your paycheck. Fortunately, the state of New York provides solutions for employees in your situation who can’t get their employers to fully compensate them for their work. You can do several things to ensure you get what you’re owed.
Remember, you are legally entitled to receive all of your promised wages. Moreover, you may also be entitled to additional penalties and benefits if your New York employer refuses to pay your wages in violation of local and state law.
In this article, we will discuss what you can do, where you can go, and with whom you can talk to resolve this serious problem you are experiencing.
What Are The Types Of Unauthorized Withholding?
Aside from withholding pay, New York employers may cheat employees out of other types of compensation. Unfortunately, holding back money owed to employees is fairly common, and it can take the following forms:
- Refusing to pay employees for all hours worked, including on-the-job training;
- Refusing to pay bonuses;
- Refusing to pay overtime wages, vacation, or holiday time;
- Reducing hourly rate without prior notice;
- Withholding tips; and
- The paycheck bounced because the employer lacked sufficient funds in their bank account.
How Can You Reclaim Money Owed By Your Employer?
If you have not received your wages, the following courses of action may be available to you to help recover your pay:
1. Check Your Employment Agreement and Manual
If the reason for not receiving your wages is a difference in timing or because you were recently fired, you may find something in your employment manual that addresses this situation. For instance, your employer may decide to withhold your last paycheck until you return your work equipment or uniform or have it deducted from your paycheck. Furthermore, if the payment date falls on a holiday or weekend, your employment manual or agreement may address the timing of your payment.
Even if there is no specific provision in the employment contract or manual, you can always contact the human resources department or the payroll manager about the problem through the proper channels described in the employment agreement or manual for other kinds of disputes.
2. Examine Your Collective Bargaining Agreement
If you are part of a union, you may want to check your union contract, as it may address wage disputes. In some instances, the collective bargaining agreement can require you to arbitrate your claims instead of pursuing other legal actions. Make sure to contact your union representative to get more information on pursuing action in this regard.
3. Contact Nonprofit Legal Assistance Organizations
Like in other states, New York has legal services organizations that can provide legal assistance to community members without charge. However, there may be some income guidelines that must be met before you can be approved for assistance and eligible to receive legal advice. Nevertheless, some agencies can make exceptions for labor disputes. Even if you do not qualify for assistance, you may find some valuable information that is free through their websites.
4. Contact The New York State Department of Labor
The New York State Department of Labor oversees all worker complaints against New York employers. If the DOL decides in your favor, your employer will have to pay the state an additional amount (up to 100%) of your wage claim. The New York Department of Labor will first try to resolve the issue informally by working with you and your employer to resolve your differences. If they fail to reach an agreement between the two of you, a lawsuit can be brought against the employer. New York employers who are found guilty can be required to pay owed wages with interest, together with other civil penalties the judge may order.
However, the worker’s claims for unpaid wages can be filed with the DOL only if the situation meets the right criteria. For instance, you have to perform work in the state of New York. You must work as a regular employee on the payroll, not as an independent contractor or a freelancer. Government workers, sales commission people, and executive and administrative professionals who earn more than $900 per week cannot file claims with the DOL.
5. Contact An Employment Lawyer
While the above mentioned methods may help you bring forth your unpaid wage claim, they may not give you the attention and personalized legal advice you need. A professional employment lawyer can assist you with this challenging process and inform you which of the above options is best for your situation. If the unpaid wage actions affect more people from your company, you may discuss the possibility of filing a class-action lawsuit. In any case, a good employment lawyer will use their years of expertise and experience to fight for your rights as an employee.
Wage theft is a serious and occurring problem in the state of New York. Wage theft can occur in many forms, including when your employee doesn’t pay you for all hours worked or fails to pay you at least the minimum wage. New York employers can also commit wage theft when they delay paying or refuse to give you your final paycheck or when they avoid overtime labor laws through employee misclassification. This, unfortunately, happens in all industries across the state.
Luckily, you have the rights under federal and state labor law to get the wages you earned but were not paid. If you are successful in your case, you may receive your unpaid wages, as well as any potential damages and legal costs. In addition, your New York employer might have to pay the penalty for failing to pay your final check correctly.
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.