Living from paycheck to paycheck is a way of life for many workers, and a late paycheck can mean the money is not there when bills are due. Hopefully, if your boss is late paying you, it is an isolated incident that you and he can resolve quickly, but state and federal laws are in place to assist you if you cannot get paid.
Ask About Your Pay
Talk to your boss. There could be a legitimate reason why your check is late. If this is the first time that your check is late, it could be a mistake in the payroll department or delivery method. Computer issues can delay check printing and direct deposits so give your employer the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to resolve the issue. If you work for a small business, your boss may be able to see that you get your check immediately. In larger companies, you may have to wait while your boss tracks down the issue that is causing the delay in your pay.
Document your conversation with your boss about the late paycheck. Present your employer with a letter of demand for your wages that lists the details of the work period including dates and the hours you worked. If your boss will not sign a copy of the letter to verify that you notified him of the problem, send a copy of the letter by registered mail and keep the delivery confirmation notice for your records.
Complain to the Labor Board
State laws differ in the requirements to file a complaint, but your local Department of Labor office can advise you of the protocol for your state. Typically, you will fill out a form specifying your complaint and attach any documentation supporting your claim. If the department verifies your complaint, it will order your employer to pay the wages due. In some states, such as California, the department can assess a waiting time penalty if your employer is late paying your final paycheck. This penalty can be as much as your daily pay multiplied by the number of days you have to wait. There is a 30-day limit on waiting time penalties.
Small Claims Court
You can sue your employer in small claims court for your unpaid wages. In small claims court, you can represent yourself or hire an attorney. You can include your wages and any expenses including filing and attorney fees in the complaint. States vary in the amounts you can sue for and the process of filing a suit, but the court clerk for your area can advise you on the procedures in your state.