If you suspect that your employer does not pay you properly, or has withheld payment for a certain task or shift, you may have grounds to file a claim for unpaid wages. This is not always a simple or quick process, but the law does provide a path for employees to petition the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) for help securing fair back pay. This may arise because an employer refuses to pay you overtime, pays you for fewer hours than you worked, or pays you less than you deserve in some other way.
Once the WHD reviews you complaint, it may assist in a number of ways. The WHD may conduct its own investigation, which is often enough to compel your employer to pay you properly in and of itself. Few businesses are interested in dealing with the additional scrutiny that review from the WHD brings, and may offer you fair compensation to avoid more trouble in the future.
You may also file a private claim against your employer, if you believe this is a good fit for your circumstances. If you successfully make your case in a civil claim involving back pay, you may seek twice the original amount that your employer failed to pay you, making up for unpaid wages and liquidated damages, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees associated with the claim. Depending on the strength of your claim, it is very possible that an attorney may represent you without asking for any payment up front.
Whatever you do, you should not accept underpayment or failed payment in any kind of workplace. Use all the resources and tools around you to make sure that your rights remain secure while you fight for your own fair treatment and the fair treatment of many others who lack the courage or resources to stand up for themselves.