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If you have done the work, then you have earned your pay. It’s yours and you have a right to go after it. Many people aren’t sure how to do that, however. There are a couple of options, and our recommendations vary depending on your situation.

We’re talking about unpaid regular wages, when your paycheck is short or you don’t get one at all. We’re also talking about situations where there is a dispute about the amount owed. This can be regarding overtime, vacation pay, commissions or other compensation.

One factor is the amount of money you are owed. For small amounts of unpaid compensation, we might recommend that you start by filing a claim with the Department of Labor. They have a system in place to help workers get paid. This is a good idea for small amounts because you don’t want to end up paying an attorney more than what you’re owed in the first place. The Department of Labor cannot force your employer to write you a check, but they will help you for free.

The other option is to sue your employer for the amount that you’re owed. The first step on this path is talking to an experienced employment attorney. You want advice from someone who has handled hundreds of unpaid wage claims in the past. Some attorneys who handle wage claims charge a contingency fee, which is a percentage of what you are able to get from your employer. If you lose your case, you pay nothing. Another type of fee is an hourly fee, which is agreed upon by the attorney and client. Make sure you talk through fees with your lawyer before they start working on your case.

Let us know if you have any questions about unpaid wages and how to get what you’re owed. We’ll talk to you about it for free.

Written by Michael Helfand