| Read Time: 3 minutes | Employment Law
how to sue your employer for unpaid wages

However many benefits you receive from your job, the main benefit your employer must provide is proper payment.

After all, getting paid is the reason most of us work.

Unfortunately, many employers fail to honor their most basic obligation to compensate their employees. In 2021, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $230 million in unpaid wages for workers in the United States. 

If your paycheck is not what it should be, we can help you recover the compensation you earned and hold your employer accountable.

In this article, we can show you what to do if your employer doesn’t pay you what is earned. At EMP Law, our North Carolina employment attorneys have a rich history of protecting employees entangled in employment disputes. We are here if you need help. 

With offices in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, we assist employees throughout North Carolina.

Contact us online or call (336) 724-2828 today to get started.

Can I Sue My Employer for Not Paying Me Correctly? 

Yes. Your employer needs to pay you, and it needs to pay you fully. 

Your employer’s obligation to pay you comes from three places: 

Your employer must pay you minimum wage, overtime wages, and any additional compensation it promises in an employment contract or policy.

Your employer also needs to pay you on your regular paydays, which can occur daily, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly. But please note that the minimum wage and overtime requirements apply only to employees and not independent contractors, assuming you are properly classified.

Minimum Wage

Under federal and state laws, employers must pay their employees at least $7.25 per hour. A North Carolina employer can pay as little as $2.13 per hour to tipped employees, but tipped employees must be allowed to keep between 85% and 100% of their tips. Also, an employer must pay a tipped employee a wage rate that makes up the difference between $2.13 and $7.25 per hour if the employee’s tips do not cover the difference. 

Overtime Wages

If you work more than 40 hours in a workweek, your employer must pay you overtime wages for the time you work after 40 hours. The overtime rate required by state and federal law is 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. 

Additional Employment Benefits

Some North Carolina employers choose to offer more compensation to their workforce than what is promised as base pay.

If your employer promises to pay more than an employee’s normal wage in certain circumstances (in bonus, commissions, benefits or a higher pay rate), they must keep their promises or risk legal consequences. 

Common additional employment benefits can include: 

  • Increased overtime rates,
  • Production pay,
  • Overtime rates apply before an employee has worked 40 hours in a workweek (e.g., overtime for working on a weekend, etc.),
  • Commissions,
  • Shift differential pay,
  • Sick leave,
  • Family leave,
  • Bonuses,
  • Holiday pay, 
  • Mileage expenses, and
  • Vacation pay.

For the most part, you must earn benefits such as vacation pay, bonuses, and commissions before your employer is required to pay them. And while your employer can choose to end their provision of additional wages and benefits, they cannot refuse to pay you additional benefits you have already earned.

Our experienced North Carolina employment attorneys can determine whether your employer has paid you all wages and benefits you were entitled to under your employer’s agreements and policies.

How to Sue Your Employer for Unpaid Wages

What can I do if my employer is refusing to pay me?

Can you sue a company for not paying you?

If you are not receiving the payment your employer owes, you can file a government or administrative complaint against it, or ultimately you can also sue a company or business you work for if it fails to pay all your wages. 

Filing a Government Complaint or Lawsuit

If your employer has not paid all your wages, you can file a complaint with the N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL) or the federal Wage and Hour Division (WHD). You have one year to file an NCDOL complaint and two years to file a WHD complaint. You can also choose to file a lawsuit for unpaid wages.

Whatever route you take, your employer cannot punish you for asserting your right to payment. If your employer retaliates against you, you may have a claim for retaliation under a statute such as the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act.

If your complaint or unpaid wages lawsuit is successful, you can recover back wages and liquidated damages. In a successful complaint, the government might also enforce civil or criminal penalties against your employer. 

Our North Carolina Employment Attorneys Can Help

Has your employer not fulfilled its responsibility to pay you what you have earned? If so, EMP Law can make sure you receive what is rightfully yours.

We have more than 140 years of combined experience and are ready to take on any North Carolina employer that refuses to respect its employees’ rights.

Call us at (336) 724-2828 or reach us online for help. 

Author Photo

Michael provides compassionate, diligent, and creative legal services that are tailored to meet each client’s specific needs. His experience relating to clients from diverse backgrounds makes him well suited for representing his clients across a broad range of legal areas. He practices in the areas of employment law and family law, and is experienced in criminal law.