Can I collecttwice the amount ofwhat’s owed me by a company, plus money spent trying to collect?

I live in IN and worked as a subcontractor there, for a company out of NY. I’m owed for 24 hours of completed work, approximately $660. The work was done and signed off by an employee where the work was done. I was told many times my check was in the mail, three months later I still don’t have a check. Can I ask for 2x, the wages owed me?

Asked on August 22, 2011 Indiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, if you were a subcontractor, then you are not owed "wages" per se--wages are paid to employees. Rather as a subcontractor, you are simply owed the agreed upon or contracted amount--in this case, $660 from what you write.

This distinction is important because in some cases, additional damages can be collected, for violations of wage and hour law, when an employee is not paid correctly. But as a contractor, if you're not paid what you are entitled, your cause of action is based in contract--in the agreement between you and the other party, that you will do certain work in exchange for certain payment--and all you can collect is the amount owed you under that agreement. You therefore may not collect double or any other enhanced damages.

If you have a written agreement with the party which hired you that, in the event of a dispute or collections effort, you could recover the legal fees or other costs, you may enforce that agreement. But without an agreement to that effect, you are not entitled to the money spent trying to collect.

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