What to Do When Your Employer Doesn't Pay
Amidst the longest government shutdown in history, more federal employees are going without deserved pay than ever before. But even a functioning government can't guarantee that an employer will pay its employees on time. Payroll is a federally (and in many cases, state) regulated process with defined rights and restrictions. However, there's just enough leeway in the law for employers to try to skirt around workers' rights.
Don't be mistaken; here's a rundown of what to do if your employer doesn't pay you on time.
1. Be firm: You're legally entitled to be paid "promptly"
Federal laws don't regulate how often employers are required to issue paychecks. Almost all state laws dictate whether employees are paid on a weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly basis (exceptions include Alabama and South Carolina), but the government's Fair Labor Standards Act clearly states that workers must be paid "promptly." The law doesn't prescribe a specific measurement of time, but specifies that employers must issue either cash or a "negotiable instrument" (like a check) by the soonest pay period possible. In addition, no portion of an employee's pay may be forcibly withheld without cause.
Address the issue with your employer in writing, using any and all available channels to lodge formal complaints and obtain documentation of any violations of federal law. If your employer refuses, you could bring the issue to your state's labor agency.
2. Record everything
Like all legal matters, documentation provides irrefutable evidence. Lawyers and third parties can draw from all documents detailing the payment agreement between employers and their employees to enforce federal laws. Whether or not an employee is worried about losing pay, every laborer should keep their own records, especially the dates of any missed pay days or other payment violations.
3. Contact U.S. Department of Labor
If an employer has violated a worker's right to be paid on time, then depending on one's state, the employee should contact the state labor division or the federal Wage and Hour Division. The Fair Labor Standards Act is upheld by these departments, which enforce a range of laws that regulate everything from how records are kept to how withholdings must be itemized on pay stubs. These departments will also hold employers accountable to laws forbidding them from changing pay rate without notice, docking pay, or withholding pay.
4. You have the right to back pay
If an employer delays payment or underpays an employee, that laborer is entitled to back pay in the amount of the owed difference. If an employer refuses, the worker has the right to file a private suit in small claims court for back wages, in addition to court costs and attorney's fees. The Fair Labor Standards Act even enables the Secretary of Labor to sue on the employee's behalf.
5. Use emergency fundsOf course, having money put away is a luxury if you're able to earn disposable income. An employer not paying on time is only one instance in which emergency funds are necessary in order to stabilize your home and food security. For those who aren't able to accrue personal savings, there are hardship withdrawals, an option to take funds from employer-sponsored retirement plans (like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or 457 plans) without paying a penalty. Some plans offer this option in instances of "immediate and heavy financial need." Depending on your plan and your employer's restrictions, the amount you're allowed to withdrawal will vary. Check with your plan administrator to apply for a hardship withdrawal.
- Not Getting Paid for Hours Worked | Working America ›
- Giving Thought: When employers don't pay their workers ... ›
- Why Wage Growth Is Slow: Employers Don't Need To, Or Want To ... ›
- What To Do When Your Employer Just Stops Paying You ›
- Unpaid Wages - Workplace Fairness ›
- What are your rights when employers don't pay up? | Money | The ... ›
- Payday Laws and Your Right to a Timely Paycheck - FindLaw ›
- What Happens If I Don't Pay Employees? ›
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.