Are there any circumstances where an employer can simply refuse to pay his employees?

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2011

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2011Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Are there any circumstances where an employer can simply refuse to pay his employees?

A neighbor, who doesn’t have internet access, asked me about this. He had a verbal contract with an employer to work 40 hours a week for 2 weeks, a total of 80 hours at $10 per hour. After 2 weeks he was “let go”. When my neighbor went to the employer’s home to ask for his pay, the former employer allegedly only gave him $50, and told him not to come again, or he (the former employer) would call 911 and have my neighbor arrested. What steps can my neighbor take to recover the withheld income?

Asked on August 25, 2011 Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Legally, there are no grounds for not paying an employee or a contractor for the work he or she actually did; if the work was only partially done, was not done at all, or was done inadaquetely or not to spec, there may be grounds to dispute payment of an independent contractor, but would still have to pay an employer.

The problem is, the only way for your neighbor to get the money he is owed would be to sue. If he was owed $80 but was paid $50, there is only  $30 at stake. For that amount of money, even filing a claim in small claims court and representing yourself (no laywer) would be break even at best. Thus, there may be no practical way to recover this money.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption