What do I do if my employer is not honoring my contract?

I was hired recently as a replacement for someone who was very sick in a small private company. The employee who was sick recovered and came back to work. The owner of the company hints at me that this is only a temporary position and is overdue on my review to discuss paying me salary. I have a signed contract saying that this is my full time position and that I was to receive salary after three months – none of which I received and I am now 4 months in. Bottom line is if the employee hadn’t come back from being sick, I wouldn’t be worrying about my job right now. I feel as though I should not be punished because the owner preemptively made the decision to hire me as a replacement and didn’t take into consideration that the other employee would recover now he clearly does not want to pay both of us. The owners also consistently underpay me and reconcile the next pay period but then end up missing other ours for that pay period. They have also started to trick me into taking days off telling me that I deserve days off for all my hard work and then not paying me. Any time I try to dispute the pay, the owners always seem to be on vacation. All the advice I have been getting from my co workers is that 1the owners have been really doing crappy things to their employees and 2I can’t bother them or I would get fired. I am just trying to get what I signed up for so I can pay my bills.

Asked on August 25, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) If the "contract" was not for a definite term (e.g. a one year employment contract), it was not really a contract: employment "contracts" which are open ended do not change employment from employment at will, which means your employment could be terminated or otherwise changed (e.g. to temporary or part time) by the employer. You need to have a definite duration or time period in an employment contract for it to be enforceable.
2) If you are hourly, they must pay you for all time worked. If they fail to pay all hours one week, but ultimately do make it up, a short time later, it's not worth taking legal action for the delay; but if there are hours you have worked and are *never* being paid for, you could file a wage complaint with the department of labor and/or sue (such as in small claims court) for the money--it's a good idea to first contact the labor department and see if they can help you.
3) If they told that you were getting a paid day--that is, unequivocally said, "we're giving you a paid day off"--then if they don't pay you, you could again file a complaint with the department of labor and/or sue. But if they just said something like "you're working very hard--why don't you take tomorrow off" but never said they were paying you for your day off, then they don't have to pay you: you took a day off without confirming you'd be paid.


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