Find the right lawyer now

Suing an Employer for Unpaid Wages

Find a Local Employment Lawyer near You

What Are Unpaid Wages?

Unpaid wages results from instances where an employer fails to pay an employee the wages that they have rightfully and lawfully earned. Sometimes referred to as withheld salary or withheld wages, unpaid wages can occur in connection with:

  • Clerical or administrative errors
  • Disputes over overtime, paid leave, or other benefits
  • Intentional acts such as discrimination or harassment
  • Withheld salaries from when an employee files for disability

Payment of withheld wages is often called back pay or retro pay.

How Do I File a Complaint for Unpaid Wages?

Filing a complaint for unpaid wages may involve:

  • An internal complaint with the company’s human resources HR department
  • A complaint with a government agency such as the EEOC, especially if discrimination was involved
  • A private civil lawsuit if other avenues for relief are not sufficient

In many cases, an internal complaint with the company’s HR department may be sufficient to correct a mistake or an oversight. However, if the error is originating in the HR department, or if an internal complaint is not sufficient, a civil lawsuit may be necessary. Some unpaid wage lawsuits are filed as a class action lawsuit if several employees are affected all at once.

What Are the Legal Consequences for Unpaid Wages?

Withholding salary is illegal and may result in legal consequences. These can include:

  • A damages award paid by the employer to the defendant to make up for lost wages and other costs
  • A required change in company policies
  • Termination of the employer or supervisor who was responsible for the unpaid wages
  • Suspension of license, civil fines, and other business consequences

In many cases, a damages award can help the plaintiff to recover the losses associated with the employer violation.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Unpaid Wage Disputes?

Having wages withheld can create problems for both employees and employers. You may need to hire a employment lawyer if you need professional legal assistance for any type of employment law matter. Your attorney can provide you with advice and representation regarding unpaid wages. Also, if you need to appear in court for formal hearings, your lawyer can be on hand to guide you through the process.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-11-2018 05:14 PM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.