How to sue an employer for unpaid wages

Written by chris ciolli
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How to sue an employer for unpaid wages
If your employer owes you money, keep a record of when, why and how much. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

If your employer shorts you on wages in any way, you have the right to recover your money. If your employer refuses to pay your overtime or forces you to work through breaks and meals without pay, you can sue for these unpaid wages. You'll need good records of your nonpayment or underpayment. While your company can't fire you for demanding owed wages, suing your employer will likely cause some level of discomfort at work.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pay slips
  • Time sheets signed by your employer
  • Employment contract
  • Printouts or records of any communications about nonpayment or underpayment
  • Detailed diary of how and when nonpayment and underpayment happened
  • Communications between you and your employer about unpaid wages
  • Solicitor

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    Building your case

  1. 1

    Wages include pay for work (salaried or hourly), holiday pay, sales commissions, overtime and personal time off. If you are a business owner or an independent contractor, income owed you is not considered wages.

  2. 2

    If the money your employer owes you falls under the category of unpaid wages, gather your evidence. This can include pay slips; bounced cheques; time sheets; communications (e-mails, referendums, letters); records of unpaid overtime, breaks, holiday time and personal time off; and your employment contract. If possible, get a letter from your employer about your unpaid wages and when it plans to pay them.

  3. 3

    Consider contacting other employees who haven't been paid correctly about the possibility of a group. If you are the only employee with unpaid wages and you don't have any evidence, it will be nearly impossible to win your case. Keep records of when your employer underpays you or doesn't pay you at all.

  4. 4

    Ask your employer for your unpaid wages in writing. Sample letters for demanding unpaid wages are available online. Do a search for "sample demand letter for unpaid wages." Have someone you trust read it and edit for typos, grammar, and content. Deliver the letter to your employer. Keep a dated copy.

  5. 5

    If your employer still doesn't pay you, find a solicitor. Either look in the phone book for lawyers or make inquiries about lawyers specialising in employment law. Or do an online search with the words "employment solicitors" and your place of residence. You should also contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. Try to get a solicitor on contingency so he will get paid only a percentage of what you get paid if you win your case.

  6. 6

    Consult with your solicitor. It may be possible for your lawyer to ask your employer for your money without going to court. Keep copies of all written communication between you, your lawyer and your employer.

  1. 1

    If your employer still refuses to pay your unpaid wages, you'll have to go to court. Usually you can sue your employer in a small-claims courts where you live.

  2. 2

    The judge should make your employer pay your legal fees and pay you extra penalty money if you win. If you lose, you may be liable to pay your employer's legal fees. Investigate this possibility ahead of time.

  3. 3

    Consider seeking other employment. No one wants to work for an employer that doesn't pay employees properly or on time.

Tips and warnings

  • Anytime you have a difference of opinion at work about payment, record what happened, the date and the final result.
  • Always keep pay slips and time sheets.
  • Before taking any legal action, try to courteously communicate any doubts or misgivings about unpaid wages to your employer.
  • Suing for small amounts may not be worth your time and effort.
  • Suing your employer for unpaid wages will be unpleasant and possibly make your work environment unpleasant. It will also take money and time.

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