Employer Disregards Salary Commitment

By Lindsey Novak

November 28, 2013 4 min read

Q: I worked for a small retail store in a contracted postal unit for a month. I was hired at $11.50 per hour and was paid correctly for the first two weeks. I worked the second two weeks, quitting at the end of them because of extreme stress brought on by numerous rules for running the post office and the difficult way of closing the retail store each day. I was mailed my last check and discovered that I was paid only minimum wage, $7.79 per hour.

I called the store owner to notify him of the error. He said he lowered the pay because he was upset I quit and had taken time to train me, which took less than two days. I worked very hard there and never would have accepted the job for minimum wage. Is there anything I can do to receive my full pay?

A: It sounds like you had two choices: Run both parts of the retail store, make serious mistakes because of your lack of training and be held accountable at your $11.50 per hour, or maintain your desire to do things right and quit because the owner did not properly prepare you to do the job. Small business owners often cut costs to make a profit, but throwing you into the position on your own was not wise. Now that you will be looking for another job, you might want to consider more than whether you will receive enough training. Running an independent postal unit plus a retail store with closing duties is a lot of responsibility. Ask questions in your interviews and fight the urge to take a job without knowing the details. Also think about whether the salary is commensurate with what you're required to do.

For pursuing your unpaid wages, each state has its own labor and employment laws, and many have an administrative agency procedure for collecting those wages from employers. Attorney Jac A. Cotiguala, former chairperson of the National Employment Lawyers Association's wage and hour committee uses Illinois as an example.

Illinois has a wage payment and collection statute. It has an administrative procedure for an ordinary worker to file a wage payment and collection claim. The procedure is set up to allow that worker to proceed by himself/herself on the claim to an administrative hearing. The form to start the process can be accessed through the Illinois Department of Labor website.

Because states offer different remedies, or no remedies at all, a two-volume book available at university law libraries (and valuable to those unable to afford attorneys to handle their wage payment claims) is "Wage and Hour Laws: A State-by-State Survey," sponsored by the American Bar Association. Look in the section about labor and employment laws. If you live near a comprehensive public library, you may be able to find it there or order it through the library system.

The book lists every state and its statutes and regulatory coverage. Now don't be afraid of using a legal book. It is well-organized: Each state has its own chapter. Unfortunately, not all states have administrative procedures for unpaid wages. But some take nonpayment or altered payments to workers very seriously, and not only are wages demanded, but penalties for failure to timely pay employees are also incurred. All employees with wage-collection problems will want to read their state's chapter, Section IV, titled "Timing, Place and Manner of Payments."

Email all your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected] She answers all emails. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Website at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM

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