How do I go about securing unpaid wages from an ex-employer?

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How do I go about securing unpaid wages from an ex-employer?

I was employed at a local bar and grill as a kitchen manager. During my employment there the owner came under some financial hardships and was attempting to secure a loan. He asked if I would mind only taking in pay what I had to have until he was able to secure the loan. I agreed, foolishly. Months passed and he was unable to secure the loan for one reason after another. I finally had no choice but to quit. The employer owes me over $16,000 for back wages not including any interest. What do I do?

Asked on April 24, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can and should sue the employer: when someone doesn't pay you money they owe you either for work you did or which you loaned them (agreeing to defer wages is in essence  a "loan"--you are temporarily giving the employer money), you have the right to sue them for its payment. You therefore seem to have at least two grounds to sue the employer.

Bear in mind that if the business is a corporation ("inc.") or a limited liability company ("LLC"), you can only sue the business itself, not the owner. If the business is insolvent--has no no money or assets (other than assets which may be securing other loans, such as if he financed his retaurant equipment or liquor)--you may might not be able to collect anything, even if you win. If the business was not a corporation or LLC, though, you can sue the owner personally, which means you'd have recourse to his personal income, assets, and property to satisfy any court judgment you get.

Contact an attorney right away: for $16,000, you should have an attorney representing you, and if the business is in financial distress, the longer you wait, the greater the chance there will be no money there to collect.


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