What can I do if my former employer is claimingthat theycan’t afford to pay me, including nearly 100 hours of accrued overtime?

My former employer has not been paying overtime wages to anyone on staff for nearly 10 months. I recently quit, expecting my final paycheck on the regularly scheduled payday, including my accrued overtime. She’s claiming that because I walked, she can’t afford to pay me. She said I might get half this week, I might get half next week. There’s over $2000 involved here, and I can’t pay my bills, including rent. What are my rights?

Asked on August 22, 2011 Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You are entitled to be paid for the work you did, which includes being paid for overtime, and your quitting does not change that (you must be paid for all work done up to quitting.) As a legal matter, the company's lack of money is not a valid reason to not pay, though, of course, if they have no money, you may have the right to be paid, but won't receive compensation. (On the third hand, if the company is not a corporation or an LLC, you may be able to sue the owner(s) personally.)

There are two ways to get wages owed you and not paid: one is to sue, another is to file a complaint with the labor department. And even for suing, while you should ideally retain an attorney, for small amounts, it's sometimes worth representing yourself. You should probably consult with an employment attorney--many provide a free initiail consultation--to evaluate  the situation; the lawyer can advise you of your options, including whether this is a worthwhile case to bring through the attorney, or whether you may wish to consider other options.


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