If my ex-employer owes me $11,000 but won’t pay, can I file a criminal complaint for theft?

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If my ex-employer owes me $11,000 but won’t pay, can I file a criminal complaint for theft?

Asked on November 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Not necessarily--it is not always a crime when someone does not pay you money. For it to be a crime, there must be criminal intent, or mens rea; however, people often fail to pay for reasons that are not criminal, such as lack of funds, losing paperwork, or a mistaken (but good faith) belief that they are entitled to not pay for some reason, such as if an employer were fired for cause or owes the employer money.

Besides, criminal actions do not always result in you getting your money--the police and prosecutor punish criminals and enforce the law; they do not act as collections agencies.

If you are owed $11,000, you should be suing the former employer to get that money. For that much money, you should hire an attorney to help you.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

This would be a civil case; not a criminal case.  You could sue your former employer for breach of contract.  Your damages (the amount of monetary compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit) would be the amount you are owed.   If you prevail in the case, and obtain a judgment against your former employer, you can place a lien on the employer's property to enforce the judgment.


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