Can I Sue My Employer for Unpaid Wages?


At Polaris Law Group, we know firsthand that employers are not above cheating their employees out of thousands of dollars. From denying employees their overtime pay to failing to pay at least minimum wage, there are a number of situations that can be manipulated by employers to keep their workers from being paid the wages they are entitled to. In this blog, we answer one of the most common questions we are asked by clients: Can I sue my employer for unpaid wages?

What Is Considered an Unpaid Wage?

Whenever an employee is not paid for the work or services they have performed for their employer, they have a right to file a lawsuit for damages. Sometimes called withheld salary, or withheld wages, unpaid wages can happen because of:

  • A clerical or administrative oversight
  • Disputes regarding overtime, paid leave, or other types of benefits
  • Discrimination or harassment
  • An employee files for disability

How to File a Claim for Unpaid Wages

Filing a complaint for wages that are owed to you usually involves the following things:

  • Making a formal complaint with your company’s human resources department
  • Making a compliant with the EEOC, especially in discrimination cases
  • Initiating a civil lawsuit if other avenues don’t produce justice

When it comes to simple oversight, a compliant to HR will usually be enough to have the error corrected and your unpaid wage reimbursed. In other situations though, HR might not take the necessary action to remedy the mistake, in which case you will need to file a lawsuit against your employer. When the employer has demonstrated a pattern of not paying employees the wages they are due, then a class action lawsuit might be needed to obtain compensation.

What Happens If My Claim Is Successful?

Keeping an employee’s salary is illegal and can result in severe legal consequences. These consequences include:

  • An award for damages that forces the employer to pay for lost wages and other expenses incurred by the defendant
  • Mandated changes to the company’s policies
  • Termination of the party responsible for the unpaid wages
  • Suspension of business license, civil fines, and other consequences

Do I Need an Attorney to File My Claim?

When an employee’s wages are withheld from them, it can create serious problems for both the worker and the company employing them. If you want to ensure that your rights are protected and your case is handled properly, then you need the assistance of a skilled legal professional. An employment law attorney can provide you with advice regarding how to secure payment for the wages your employer owes you.

If you have an employment related dispute, the legal team at Polaris Law Group can help you. Our Hollister attorney has more than two decades of experience helping workers in Northern California. Call (888) 796-4010 to set up your free consultation today.