If my boss just emailed myself and several co-workers saying he will not be paying us, is this legal?

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If my boss just emailed myself and several co-workers saying he will not be paying us, is this legal?

I work for a small, locally owned business. We just received an email saying that he won’t be paying us this week or next (paychecks are 2 weeks behind). He also stated that he won’t begin paying for another 2 weeks and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to pay off the debt incurred from not paying this week or next. He wants to pay us off in installments whenever he is able to. This can’t possibly be legal.

Asked on May 18, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not legal--employees must be paid for all work they did. Therefore, if your employer does not pay you, you and you coworkers could sue your employer (including potentially in small claims court, each of you acting as your own attorney; or you could jointly retain one attorney) for your wages, as well as potentially for any costs, losses, or fees you incur due to nonpayment (e.g. overdraft fees).

That said, you need to factor in the practicalities of your situation. Regardless of legal rights, your employer cannot pay if it does not have money. If the company is a corporation or LLC, you could only sue the company itself--not the owner personally. Therefore, if the company is a corporation or LLC and is in legitimate financial distress, you may not be able to recover your wages if it doesn't have the money to pay. In that instance, agreeing to be repaid over time, as the business can pay, may be the best you can do.


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