Unpaid Wages – Why Do You Need a Lawyer?
Payment of wages is covered under the State and Federal Laws and Regulations. Each of these rules is extensively explained and involves complexities in their interplay. If you have not received full payment for your work, you have a legal claim to penalties and in some states, even lawyer’s fees. In certain circumstances, owing your employer for wages may make you entitled to other claims including claims for unfair competition.
As an employee, you are entitled to wage claim if your employer has not paid you:
- Minimum wage
- For “off-the-clock” work
- For break time as provisioned in the law (or not allowed to take beaks provided by law)
- For accrued, untaken vacation period (if covered and required under state law)
- For time required to wear or take off uniforms or other work-related gear
- For time required to put on safety gears or take those off
- For travel time during the weekdays (in certain states, time to go to or return from the workplace)
- Premium overtime payment for hours worked more than the maximum permissible limit (more than 8 hours/workday under some state laws or more than 40 hours/week under federal law)
However, there are more to the claims listed above. For example, if someone receives commissions or accepts tips, the minimum wage claims involve more complexities. Legal advice from an experienced wage & hour attorney will help you figure out if your employer’s conduct is in clear breach of what is stated under Federal or State Law.
What Can a Lawyer Do?
A lawyer does more than assisting you to decide if your employer has breached a state or federal law. A wage and hour lawyer can also provide you with the options to challenge your employer’s illegal conduct and assess if your case is worth pursuing.
Talk to Your Lawyer about Your Options
When an employer fails to conform to wage and hour laws, an employee is entitled to sue his/her employer. However, in some circumstances, an employee may resort to other options. For example, you have the legal right to file a wage claim against your employer with the state labor department. The authority will arrange a hearing to verify the matter. It is definitely a quick and cheap alternative to lawsuit filing. However, the alternative option comes with certain disadvantages that any good lawyer will explain to you.
Another choice is to negotiate a settlement with your employer. It is definitely an informal way to try to recoup your unpaid wages. An experienced lawyer will always present all the available options along with their pros and cons so that you can never fall short of making an informed decision.
A wage and hour lawyer will analyze your situation and options from different perspectives including cost/benefit. You should assess the cost of each option before choosing any. Your lawyer will detail everything including how much you can recoup in damages as well as how much you have to pay for his/her service.
Most lawyers don’t charge consultation fees. Though involving a lawyer means you have to bear some expenses out of your pocket, it’s worth discussing with someone from the field. Remember that your employer will definitely approach a lawyer for legal advice and in such a situation, not consulting an attorney does not make much of sense.