Most jobs end at some point. When you make the decision that it is time to move on, and you give your employer notice, you expect to at least get your last paycheck. So, what do you do if your employer won't give it to you? First, you should send a written demand letter to your employer, requesting your check. If that does not work, you essentially have two options in Alabama: file an administrative claim or file a lawsuit.
Filing an Administrative Claim
Your first option is to file a wage claim with the Alabama Department of Labor. There is no fee for doing so. You need only have the claim form notarized. The Alabama Department of Labor will then contact your employer, state that you should be paid, and ask your employer for an explanation. In some cases, this is sufficient to coerce employers to do the right thing. The Alabama Department of Labor will not take any action to force your employer to pay, however. The only real benefit is that many employers will see this action on your part as an indication that you intend to fight for your pay.
Taking Legal Action in Court
If the administrative route does not work, you can go to court and request that your employer be ordered to pay you, including court costs. If your paycheck was less than $3,000, you can file your claim in Small Claims Court in the county where your employer has an office. You can represent yourself in Small Claims Court. If your paycheck exceeds $3,000, you should speak to an employment attorney for advice on filing a lawsuit in Civil District Court. If you are successful, you can also be reimbursed your court costs, as well as attorney's fees.
Assistance from Your Union
If you are a member of a union, you will also have rights as a union worker, and your union can help in protecting your rights more effectively. You should contact your union representative and request assistance in obtaining your last paycheck. You should still be entitled to assistance from the union, just as if you were still working for the company.
Options for Independent Contractors
Unfortunately, workers who are classified as independent contractors cannot file wage claims with the Alabama Department of Labor. They can go to small claims, district, or circuit court, depending on the amount claimed, to bring breach of contract claims against the employer. Of course, if you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, in order to avoid these laws, and you are able to prove as much, you may still be protected as an employee under separate federal laws.
If you feel you have been denied your wages, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.