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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 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.

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.

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