Is there anything that I can do legally to an employer who still owes me money if we were paid off the books?

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Is there anything that I can do legally to an employer who still owes me money if we were paid off the books?

I was laid off by an employer of a start up pool business based out of Westchester County. This was almost 2 months ago and he still owes me about $1200. The problem is we were paid in cash. He tells me that he does not have it right now, but I know he is still paying his other 2 employees, one of which took my job after I was told the reasoning for my being laid off was that he did not have enough work for two employees. Is there anything I can do, or am I just screwed because it was all of the books?

Asked on August 20, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no right to pay employees "off the books." If the proper taxes were not paid on your income, both the employer AND you may be liable for back taxes, interest, penalties. This is mentioned because while you have the right to be paid for work done (see below), you need to be aware that if you accepted income without paying the taxes on it, you, too, have committed a type of tax fraud and could potentially suffer liability if it comes to light. You may wish to think, therefore, about whether you want to pursue this matter.

2) You have to be paid for all work done. Therefore, if you did $1,200 of work for which you were not paid, you could, if you chose, sue for it. However, there are problems with doing so. In addition to the issue above, you'd have to prove--the terms of your employment (i.e. the rate), the hours worked, that the  work was done, etc. All of this is more difficult with off the books employment that didn't leave a paper trail.


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