How Much Can I Sue My Employer For if They Didn’t Pay Me?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all employers must pay a minimum wage and overtime rates. The former may be dependent on the state minimum wage which is paid to employees in that state if it is more than the FLSA minimum of $7.25 per hour.

Overtime rates should be paid at time and a half, i.e. one and a half times the hourly rate after 40 hours have been worked that week. If your employer is not paying you the right amount, nothing at all, or you got fired and weren't paid for the hours that you worked, you may be able to file a claim for wage theft compensation against your employer.  

Can You Sue a Company For Not Paying You? 

Yes, you can sue an employer for not paying you or for not paying you the correct amount. Employers must abide by both federal and state employment laws that determine how much employees should be paid. The most important laws are those that determine the minimum wage and how much should be paid on overtime rates. 

Minimum hourly wage rates are determined each year by both the state and federal government. The highest of the two minimum rates is what should be paid as a minimum. There is no similar legislation which determines a maximum rate.

Overtime rates are also determined by legislation. Overtime is considered any hours worked over 40 in any period of 7 consecutive days. Overtime rates are 50% greater than the normal hourly rate.

If you are not being paid the minimum rate or the correct overtime rate for overtime, then this might be considered wage theft and you can file a complaint with the Hours and Wage Division of the Department of Labor. You can also file a complaint of wage theft if your employer has not paid wages on time or your last pay packet if you leave employment.

If the Department of Labor (DOL) cannot resolve the complaint, then you are free to sue your employer for wage theft through the civil court. An employment lawyer can help you with a lawsuit if you choose to sue your employer for not paying you the correct amount of wages. 

What Can I Do If My Employer Didn’t Pay Me?

Under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are legally required to pay their employees the minimum wage implemented by a state if it exceeds the FLSA minimum, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Overtime rates must be one and a half times the hourly rate after 40 hours have been worked in a week. If your employer refuses to pay the correct amount or nothing at all, you may be eligible to file a claim for wage theft compensation from your employer.

The first action you need to take is reporting the matter to your employer’s HR. However, you need to first file a complaint with the Wages and Hours Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor before you can claim compensation.

When you file a wage theft complaint with the WHD you will need to include:

  • your name; 
  • your address and telephone number;
  • the name and location of the company you work for;
  • the names of the managers or owners of the company; 
  • the type of work you were employed to do;
  • how and when you received your paid.

You should include copies of your pay stubs and your personal record of hours worked. Each state has its own Department of Labor which you could also file a claim with.

If you are finding it difficult to file a claim and your employer has refused to co operate after you have reported your wage theft you should consider consulting an attorney who will help you resolve your case of wage theft and get the compensation you deserve.

Calculating How Much You May Be Able to Claim

There are different damages that can be added to your claim which may include the regular pay owed to you, overtime pay and the interest on the unpaid wages. To recover the unpaid wages, the employee may either file a lawsuit in court or file an administrative claim with the state’s labor department. The amount of money you can recover in your wage claim or lawsuit against an employer is called “damages.” These can include the following:

  • For unpaid wages, an employee who is successful in a wage theft claim or lawsuit should be awarded the amount of wages that has not been paid by the employer. This includes any overtime that was not paid. So, if your employer only paid you regular wages for your overtime hours, you should receive the difference between the regular wages you were paid and the overtime amount you should have been paid.
  • Interest on the unpaid wages, which is set by the state. Sometimes, liquidated damages are paid instead of interest. If your employer did not act in good faith, it may be told to pay double the unpaid wage owed to you as liquidated damages under federal law.
  • Some state laws demand that employers pay a penalty to any employee who is a victim of wage theft, in addition to the unpaid wages owed. For example, in California, the law requires that an employer pays a “waiting time” penalty, which works out to be equal to 30 days of the employee’s unpaid wages.
  • Attorney’s fees and miscellaneous costs when pursuing the case need to be paid by your employer if you win your wage theft claim, along with any other costs of pursuing the case.

How to Get Help With Your Claim

Here are some quick tips to help with getting the most from your wage theft lawsuit.

  1. Report your wage theft to your employer and see if you can negotiate a wage theft settlement without filing a lawsuit;
  2. Make sure you have kept your pay stubs showing the discrepancy between your hours worked and how much you should have been paid;
  3. Get co-workers to help you prove your wage theft by comparing pay stubs;
  4. Hire a lawyer to help you with the wage theft claim;

Get Legal Assistance

It is always a good idea to get legal assistance from an experienced employment lawyer who can advise you if you are likely to win a successful wage theft claim and help to negotiate on your behalf. Get a free case evaluation by using the form available below.