Can my employer penalize me for not working, if they do not pay me for the hours I have worked?

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Can my employer penalize me for not working, if they do not pay me for the hours I have worked?

I work for a staffing contractor for amazon called SMX in the state of Virginia.
My employer has shorted my checks for the past 4 weeks straight some amounts
vary. But tonight I was missing over 13 hours on my check so I told my employer I
would not be working until it is fixed. Now they are trying to penalize me for
this. I need to know if I am in the wrong. Or if my employer is in the wrong.

Asked on October 14, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you are an hourly employee, you must be paid for all hours worked: if not, you may file a complaint with the state department of labor and/or sue (e.g. in small claims court) for the money.
However, the fact that you may have a valid claim against your employer does NOT mean that they cannot discipline you, up to and including terminating you, if you refuse to work when you are supposed to: their failure to pay for all hours does not deprive them of their authority as your employer or the power they enjoy under "employment at will" (which is the law of the land, except and only to the extent you have a contract to the contrary) to discipline or terminate employees.
Moreover, if you are terminated for refusing to work, they could properly consider that a "for cause" termination, identify it as such to the unemployment office, and prevent you from getting unemployment: it would be termination for insubordination, failure to follow employer directions, and/or absence from work.
So yes, you have the right to your money and ways (e.g. contacting the dept. of labor) to pursue it. But not working is not the right option.


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