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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 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.


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