Is it ever legal for a company to not pay backpay, even after an employee has quit?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it ever legal for a company to not pay backpay, even after an employee has quit?

I worked with a company as a W2 employee on salary. Then, 2 months ago, they cut my salary in half due to almost going bankrupt. I quit last week due to emotional and financial distress. The company is now saying they don’t have to pay what they owe me since I quit. My employee agreement had an

Asked on July 3, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

IF they owed you money and had not paid it, they still have to pay you even after you quit: legally, if you did the work, you must be paid for it, under both contract law (the agreement purusant to which you worked in exchange for pay, even if it was only an "oral" or unwritten agreement) and the doctrine of "unjust enrichment" (they cannot benefit from your work without paying for it). You can sue them for any money owed you, such as in small claims court, as your own attorney or "pro se."
HOWEVER, your employer may reduce your salary at will, unless you had an actual written contract for a definite term (e.g. a one-year contract) which had not yet expired which guaranteed you a certain pay. Without such a contract, your pay is under your employer's sole control (this is a consequence of "employment at will," which is the law of this country) and they can change or cut it at will. So if they cut your salary in half, that's all you were entitled to; and if they paid you that 1/2 salary, they do not owe you anything more.

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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