If you’re in a position where your employer isn’t paying you the wages or commissions that you’re due, I’m sorry. That’s frustrating, and wrong. You probably depend on your wages and commissions to make a living and bills don’t take a break because your employer won’t pay.
The good news is that Minnesota has strong laws to protect Minnesota employees and simplify the process of getting paid what you’re owed – and then some. Here’s a few tips that will help you start the process at the very least and hopefully, get what you’re owed without having to hire a lawyer.
Figure out what you’re owed.
The first thing you need to do is figure out how much your employer owes you in wages and/or commissions. If you’re an hourly employee and your employer hasn’t paid you for all the hours that you worked, at least one part of this analysis should be pretty straightforward: multiply the number of hours that you worked (but haven’t been paid for) by your hourly rate – this will give you the amount in straight wages you’re owed.
But your calculations don’t end there. You should also consider the following questions:
Was there overtime that you worked but weren’t paid for? You rate overtime pay (time and half) for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
Did your employer ever make you work off the clock? That is: were you required to perform work while not clocked in? If yes, you’re entitled to be paid for that time under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act.
Did your employer pay employees for banked sick time, PTO, or vacation time? What does it say in your employee handbook about unused vacation, PTO, and sick time? If there’s a practice or policy of paying for that time, then that also constitutes wages owed to you.
If you’re a commissioned employee, look to your sales/employment contract to determine how much you’re owed in commissions.
Figure out if your employer took improper deductions from your paychecks.
Employers sometimes withhold paychecks – or make deductions from paychecks (especially final paychecks) – if they believe the employee owes them money. Sometimes employers will deduct money for broken equipment, training, uniforms, lost or stolen property, unmet performance or sales goals, or other debts it claims that the employee owes. Minnesota law generally prohibits these deductions with the exception of very special circumstances.
Unless you voluntarily authorized your employer – in writing – to make deductions from your paycheck after the supposed debt or loss was incurred, your employer is not allowed to make that deduction and it’s illegal.
Look at your paychecks and figure out if your employer made any deductions and if yes, for what. Your employer probably owes you that money, too.
Send your employer a letter or email demanding payment of your wages.
After you determine how much you’re owed (see steps 1 and 2), send your employer a written demand for your wages – via email or letter. Make sure to save a copy of your demand letter for your records.
Here’s a sample written request that you can cut and paste (and fill in the relevant fields, like “date” and “address”) into an email or letter that you’ll send to your Human Resources department:
To: Human Resources, Attention [NAME]
[YOUR EMPLOYER’S COMPANY NAME]
From: [YOUR NAME and ADDRESS]
Regarding: Demand for payment of wages
Pursuant to Minn. Stat. 181, I request that you pay me the wages that I’m owed. I am owed the following amounts:
[$ AMOUNT] in straight hourly pay;
[$ AMOUNT] in overtime;
[S AMOUNT] in banked PTO, sick, and vacation time; and
[$ AMOUNT] in unpaid commissions. [Adjust these amounts and categories as necessary after you go through Steps 1 and 2].
Please immediately send a check for the full amount to: [YOUR ADDRESS].
Calculate penalties if your employer doesn’t immediately pay you wages owed.
If your employer doesn’t pay you after you send your written demand, then Minnesota law imposes penalties on your employer that will be owed to you. For example, if your employer hasn’t paid you your last paycheck within 24 hours of your written demand, then the penalty is equal to your average daily earnings for each day the employer is late, up to 15 days. In other words, if your employer doesn’t pay you for 15 days after your written demand, then your employer owes you your last paycheck plus 15 days of wages.
Moreover, there are double-damages penalties under state and federal law if your employer owes you overtime pay. Likewise, if your employer made unlawful deductions, your employer owes you not just the amount of the deduction, but that amount multiplied by 2.
Minnesota law also requires your employer to pay your attorney fees and costs in obtaining your wages and commissions.
Contact a Minnesota unpaid wages employment lawyer.
Contact a Minnesota employment lawyer about your case. They can advise you about your case and your options. If they take your case, they’ll likely work on a contingency fee, so they won’t get paid unless they recover for you. And – as stated above – for many situations – your employer will need to pay your legal fees.
Joshua Newville is a Minnesota employment lawyer, civil rights attorney, and mediator. Josh litigates and advises on such matters as wrongful termination, whistleblowers, discrimination, police misconduct, and more. He offers paid legal consultations and free online case reviews regarding employment law and civil rights.