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How To Recover Unpaid Wages From Underhanded Employers In Pennsylvania

Unpaid wages can have a devastating effect on an employees livelihood

People often call our office looking for help recovering their unpaid wages. Pennsylvania employees have a right to receive fair wages and are protected under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL). These laws are designed to ensure that employers pay their employees promptly and accurately for all work performed. Employers who violate these laws may be held liable for unpaid wages, damages, and attorneys’ fees. Additionally, individuals who have decision making authority regarding Employer’s wage payments can be held personally liable for any violation.

Both the FLSA and WPCL require that an individual is an “employee” of a company and not an “independent contractor”. Sometimes an employer will characterize a working relationship as an independent contract to avoid liability. Check out our blog if you have questions determining whether you are considered an employee or independent contractor.

Unpaid Wages Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

Under the FLSA, employers are required to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked. Employers are also required to pay overtime at a rate of one and a half times an employees regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. See 29 U.S. Code § 207. The FLSA applies to all employees who work for an employer engaged in interstate commerce or the production of goods for interstate commerce.

If an employer violates the FLSA, the employee may be entitled to recover unpaid wages, plus liquidated damages in an amount equal to 200% of the unpaid wages. See 29 U.S. Code § 216. Additionally, the employee may be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and court costs.

The Wage Payment and Collection Law

Pennsylvania also has the WPCL which provides additional protections. The WPCL is for employees who work or reside in the state. It requires employers to pay employees all wages due on regular paydays, and to pay employees who are terminated all wages due within a certain timeframe. Once a payday policy is in place, an employer must follow the policy. It cannot make arbitrary adjustments on the pay schedule. Any such variation would violate the WPCL.

If an employer does not pay an employee according to the pay schedule, an employee can bring a claim for unpaid wages. The WPCL imposes strict penalties for wages more than 30 days past due. The employee may recover any unpaid wages, plus interest and liquidated damages in an amount equal to 125% of the unpaid wages. See 43 P.S. § 260.10. Further, if the claim is successful, the employee can recover mandatory attorney’ fees and court costs.

Importantly, these laws cover employees who work in Pennsylvania as well as those who live here but work outside of the state. As an example, if you are a Pennsylvania resident and your employer is based in another state but you work remotely, the WPCL still applies. If an employer hires Pennsylvania residents, it is subject to the WPCL regardless of the companies location.

Similar to the FLSA, the WPCL also allows an employee to collect their attorneys fees from the employer if they are successful in their claim. 43 P.S. § 260.9a(f). This makes it easier for employees to bring a claim to protect their rights, and is an incentive for employers to pay their employees.

Individual Liability for Unpaid Wages

Individual liability is another harsh incentive for employers to pay employees their owed wages. Owners, executive officers, and other decision making individuals can face personal liability for an employee’s unpaid wages. If an individual decision maker of the employer takes part in the decision not to pay an employee, that person has acted as an agent of the employer. The employee can pursue a claim against the individual and recover the same penalties described above.


In conclusion, employers with Pennsylvania employees must comply with the FLSA and WPCL. They must ensure that they pay their employees fairly and promptly for all work performed. Both laws carry strict penalties meant to deter employers from wrongfully withholding earned wages. In a world of ever increasing expense, an employers failure to pay wages can be devastating. Our experienced employment law attorneys can help you navigate these laws and ensure that you are adequately compensated for an employers violation. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Aubrie Linder
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Anton Kaminsky
Aubrie Linder

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