Unpaid Wages: Do you need an unpaid wage attorney?

You need an unpaid wage attorney to help you decide if your wage claim is worth pursuing. And recover your underpaid compensation at departure.                                    

Wages are paid in accordance with federal and state rules and regulations. Each of these sets of principles is complex, and the interrelationship between them is much more so. In addition to payment of wages due, you may be entitled to fines and, in some areas, attorney’s fees if your employer has not paid you completely for your labor. In some cases, an employer’s inability to pay wages may provide you grounds to pursue additional claims, such as unfair competition allegations (in California, for example).          

If your employer has neglected to pay you, you may have a claim for unpaid wages:

  • The legal minimum salary
  • for the legally mandated lunch breaks (or has not allowed you to take required breaks)
  • For 24×7 Work
  • for putting on or taking off a safety or other job-related equipment or clothes 
  • for unused vacation time (if required by state law)
  • Time-and-a-half bonus for working hours over the legal straight-hour maximum (over 40 hours in a workweek under federal law; over 8 hours in a workday under some state regulations); or (and, in some states, travel to and from work).

These aren’t, however, black-and-white statements. If you work for tips or commissions, for example, even a minimum wage claim might be complex. Furthermore, not all travel time must be reimbursed. You can determine if your employer’s actions are in violation of state or federal law with the help of an attorney.

What is an unpaid wage Attorney’s role?

An unpaid wage attorney can offer you choices for contesting an employer’s illegal activity and explore if you have a case worth pursuing in addition to determining whether your employer has broken a federal or state law.

Examine your alternatives

An employee can frequently sue their company if they break wage and hour laws. However, in many cases, the employee may have alternative choices. In some jurisdictions, for example, you can submit a claim for unpaid wages against your employer to the state labor department, which will hold a hearing and give a decision.

Another alternative is to make informal contact with the employer to try to reach an agreement on your pay claim. An unpaid wage attorney can help you weigh your alternatives so that you can make an educated decision.

Analysis of the cost/benefit

An unpaid wage attorney can also analyze your chances of succeeding in any of the aforementioned possibilities, as well as the costs associated with each. You and your attorney will talk about how much money you may get in damages and how much money you’d have to spend in legal costs to pursue those damages.

Attorney’s fees

When most people consider taking legal action, the cost of hiring an attorney is a major consideration. Request a pricing estimate from the attorney for each option. Also, inquire about the attorney’s fee arrangements. Will the attorney, for example, take a case on a contingency (recovery percentage) fee basis? If they desire an hourly charge, will the attorney agree to a restricted services retainer (for example, simply counseling through the state agency claim filing procedure)? You may consider the expense of pursuing your underpaid wage claim in your total analysis by examining all of the fee arrangements available.

Costs of litigation

You may be responsible for costs associated with a lawsuit or other legal action in addition to attorney’s fees. Filing expenses, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and so on are examples of these charges. Also, request that the attorney provide you with a breakdown of these charges.


It’s worth your time and money to meet with an attorney and obtain a thorough appraisal of your prospective legal claims, including the avenues of recovery, the damages you can recover, and the fees and charges you’ll incur if you pursue a claim. Only after doing this thorough investigation can you determine whether you want to engage an attorney to take your employer to court. Keep in mind that your company will definitely have legal representation; you should have legal representation as well.