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It's a pretty basic concept. You do the work, you get paid for it. In many cases, people don't even really do the work, and they still get paid. But what happens when you hold up your end of the bargain but your employer doesn't? Here are a few tips to keep in mind for what to do if your employer stopped paying you.
The first option is an obvious one. Why work for an employer who won't pay you? Even if you love what you do, that passion won't pay for next month's mortgage payment or your student loan debt. Quitting is the preferred option among some professionals. You can begin working for someone who actually pays their employees, yet still pursue a claim for back pay.
Talk It Out
If you really want to stay, or hate the idea of immediately looking for a new job, you should have an open and honest discussion with your boss. The key points of that conversation should focus on understanding what the company's money issues are and what you can expect in terms of things turning around. You can always go up the food chain if necessary. Don't be afraid to have these uncomfortable conversations. What's the worst they could do, fire you? And if you feel like they're giving you the run-around, reconsider option one.
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
Whether you decide to stick it out for a few missed paychecks or quit immediately, be prepared. Update your resume, get in touch with friends and acquaintances in your field, and start applying for jobs. A company who has stopped paying their employees might not be around for too much longer, despite the best of intentions. At the same time, keep detailed documentation of the work you perform and your missed wages.
Fight for Your Back Pay
The good news is that you don't have to fight this fight on your own. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act which includes the payment of back pay. Complaints are confidential unless the agency needs to reveal your identity, with your permission, in order to pursue a claim. And if you do file a complaint with WHD, your employer is not allowed to fire you or otherwise retaliate against you for that complaint. You should keep in mind, however, that the standard statute of limitations for recovering back pay is two years.
Of course, you can also file a private suit against your employer if they've stopped paying you and you haven't received back pay yet. Your lawsuit could include demands for back pay, attorney's fees, and court costs. Contact an experienced employment lawyer to discuss your options.