Can You Refuse To Work If My Employer Hasn’t Paid Me?

Submitted by rachel on

An employer may be breaking the law if they aren’t paying you in a timely manner or if they aren’t paying you the wages you’ve earned. You might think you can just refuse to work in these circumstances.

This could be a mistake. As this overview will explain, you have other options to consider before jeopardizing your employment by refusing to do your job.

What To Do If Your Employer Hasn’t Paid You

As an employee, you have the right to receive payment for the work you do. If you have not received your wages or salary in a timely manner, you may be wondering if you can refuse to work until you are paid. Consider taking the following steps in these if your employer hasn’t paid you:

Check your employment contract: The first thing you should do is review your employment contract to see if it addresses the issue of unpaid wages. Your contract may specify when you are supposed to be paid and what actions you can take if you are not paid on time.

Know the risks: Before you decide to refuse to work until you are paid, it is important to consider the potential risks. Depending on your situation, your employer may be able to terminate your employment if you refuse to work. You may also be in breach of your employment contract if it specifies that you must work regardless of whether you have been paid. Additionally, many states have laws specifying the amount of time an employer must pay your wages. For example, in New York, the law requires employers to pay manual workers on a weekly basis. Employers have seven calendar days after the end of a work week to pay a manual worker their wages.

Consider your options: If your employment contract does not address the issue of unpaid wages, you may still have options. You can try talking to your employer and explaining the situation. They may be able to resolve the issue and pay you the wages you deserve. Don’t simply refuse to work without discussing the issue with your employer first.

File a claim: Your employer may not work with you to remedy this issue. If they don’t, you can proceed to file a claim with your state’s labor department or the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD).

Strongly consider enlisting the help of a wage theft attorney before filing a claim. They may explain the process and help you better understand your legal options in these circumstances.

Documents Needed When Filing a Wage Theft Claim

When filing a wage theft claim with the WHD or your state’s labor department, you’ll need to provide documentation supporting your claim. This may include:

  • Your employment contract
  • Documentation of hours worked
  • Previous pay stubs
  • Any communication regarding your employer not paying you

Get Help With Your Wage Theft Claim

Research shows that wage theft remains a significant problem in the U.S. It’s understandable if you want to refuse to work when your employer hasn’t paid you.

However, this likely isn’t the best course of action. Instead, review your case with a wage theft attorney first. They may be able to help you remedy the situation through a legal process. To get started, complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected with an independent, participating attorney who subscribes to the website.

Additional Resources