What Are Wage Dispute Claims?
Employers often assume that the relatively small sums involved in an individual employee’s wage and hour claim mean that it won’t be economical to develop and present. At our law firm, our lawyers can handle any size employment law claims involving unpaid wages and overtime violations. We can also investigate the scale of wage and hour problems at a particular employer’s business. If violations appear to be widespread, we can pursue the case as a class action under Pennsylvania or federal law, depending on the specific circumstances.
It is extremely important to know your wage rights and to have at least a passing understanding of Pennsylvania overtime laws. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division enforces wage and overtime pay standards through the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. For example, most employees who work more than 40 hours a week are entitled to one and one-half times their normal amount of pay. The Wage and Hour Division also enforces several other acts that govern areas such as payment of federal government contract workers, payment to employees who provide or manufacture goods to the federal government and much more.
Employees who have pay disputes with their employers may be able to take legal action to obtain the compensation to which they believe they’re entitled. For example, you may be required to work through lunch breaks on a regular basis, or you may be wrongly classified as an “independent contractor” rather than an employee. Many companies will do this to get out of paying overtime and providing other benefits that full-time employees enjoy.
You have the right to get legal assistance to make sure your employer is complying with all state and federal laws, and you are getting the pay you deserve. Get Started with your claim.
Can an Employer Withhold Pay?
In almost all circumstances, employers must pay employees wages which are due and must pay on time. Under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), wages must be paid by an employer or they can face penalties, including a civil suit launched by former employees.
In most cases, the wages to be paid and the frequency of payment is set out in the employment agreement. This agreement will determine how, when and how much you are paid. Refer to this document first if you have any questions regarding a withheld payment.
If your employment agreement contains language you’re unsure of or you have questions, contacting an employment attorney is your best bet for clarification.
At MWC, we get asked about paychecks frequently, here are some of the more common pay-related questions and answers.
Can an Employer Withhold Pay if You Are Fired?
No, your employer must pay you in full by your next regular payday if you have been fired. This is the case even if you were fired for doing something wrong.
Can an Employer Withhold Your Paycheck if You Quit?
Nope. If you leave your place of employment for any reason, you should get your final paycheck for wages earned in a timely fashion. Generally, you should get your wages by the next payday period. Your employer is obligated to keep careful records of wages earned and hours worked so they can pay you in full by your next regular payday, even if you quit.
One issue that may arise is if an employee owes an employer money at the time of termination. If you leave your place of employment, for example, but have kept company property, it is useful to know what your rights are. In these situations, the WPCL stipulates your employer must pay your wages in full and can pursue you for the cost of any materials apart from your wages.
Can an Employer Hold Your Check for Any Reason?
Withholding paycheck laws require employers to withhold some pay for taxes, federal programs and some other reasons. The withholdings for income taxes and other reasons should be clearly marked on your employment agreement or pay stub and should be explained to you if you ask. If you notice any withholdings you do not recognize, ask your employer about them.
In general, in Pennsylvania, employers may deduct part of your wages for court-ordered deductions, taxes and federal programs. With your written permission, employers may also withhold a portion of your pay for:
- Welfare, benefits and pension plans
- Thrift plans
- Stock options
- Credit union payments or payments to banks, bonds, savings fund societies and other financial products
- Contributions to charity
- Labor organization costs
What to Do if an Employer Is Withholding a Paycheck
In some cases, employers do withhold paychecks even when it is illegal to do so. For example, they may not pay a freelancer or contractor a final payment because the laws for independent contractors and payment are different. A company may be facing bankruptcy or other disruptions and may struggle to make payments.
If your employer illegally withholds a paycheck, you can file a civil suit against the company. You can also file a claim with the Department of Labor and Industry. If you have to file a lawsuit, you may be able to secure compensation for the attorney fees of the case as well as your unpaid wages plus interest.
The longer you have to wait for your unpaid wages, the more the employer may need to pay in addition to the unpaid portion of wages. In some cases, employers who withhold pay can also face criminal charges, which can result in 90 days imprisonment or up to $300 in fines or both.
Can I Sue For pay?
Yes, you can. Wage and hour laws are in effect to protect employees and help ensure they receive fair compensation. When an employer violates these wage rights, they must be held accountable. There are several ways that employers commit wage and hour violations, including:
- Failing to pay you for any required on-the-job training
- Denying you overtime after 40 hours
- Failing to pay for breaks or lunch
- Failing to pay you for any time you may spend “on call” away from the office
- Failing to pay for any work you may be required to perform at home
Employees involved in pay disputes with their employers may often feel powerless, thinking they have no way of obtaining the fair compensation they deserve. But you always need to remember that you have rights, and an attorney experienced in labor and wages law can fight on your behalf. For example, a lawyer can report an employer not paying wages in a way that complies with wage and hour laws. Lawyers can also make sure employers properly classify their workers and more.
Protecting Your Rights
Major employers reward middle managers and supervisors for keeping costs down, and in tough economic times, squeezing labor expenses can look like the quickest route toward protecting profits when revenues are flat. If you think that the cost of your labor has been squeezed a little too hard and you want to know your rights when it comes to a wage and hour dispute, get the advice of an experienced attorney at McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, P.C.
We advise hourly workers, salaried workers and sales professionals about their legal options for unpaid overtime or sales commissions and other wage and hour claims. In some cases, employees entitled to overtime pay are misclassified as exempt and unlawfully required to work extra hours. In other cases, employees are required to change into uniforms, clean up work areas, or perform other tasks on their own time without compensation at all.
With a longstanding focus on employment law issues, McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, P.C. offers a free consultation to anyone who is owed money or compensation from an employer.