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December 13, 2023 | EmploymentNew York

What To Do When Your Employer Refuses To Pay You in New York

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Ellie Sanders

Associate Attorney

Unpaid wages can create financial strain and stress for employees.  If you find yourself in a situation where your employer refuses to pay you in New York, an experienced employment attorney can advise you on your rights and the legal avenues available to seek recourse.

What Constitutes Unpaid Wages in New York State?

In New York, unpaid wages encompass more than just an employee’s hourly or salaried income.  Unpaid wages also include failure to pay overtime and tips, making payments below the minimum wage, and requiring off-the-clock work.

Wage Theft Prevention Act

The Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA) protects employees in New York from wage theft.  Wage theft occurs when an employer does not fully pay an employee for the work the employee has performed.  Enacted in 2011, the WTPA requires that all private employers provide employees written notice of:

  • Rate or rates of pay, including overtime rate of pay (if it applies);
  • How the employee is paid: by the hour, shift, day, week, commission, or other;
  • Regular payday;
  • Official name of the employer and any other names used for business;
  • Address and phone number of the employer’s main office or principal location;
  • Allowances taken as part of the minimum wage (tips, meal and lodging deductions); and
  • The notice must be given both in English and in the employee’s primary language (if the Labor Department offers a translation). The Department currently offers translations in the following languages: Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish and Russian.

Further, the WTPA requires employers to furnish wage statements (or paystubs) to their employees on the day of payment.  To comply with the law, the wage statement must state:

  • The name, address, and phone number of the employer;
  • The dates that are covered in the pay period;
  • The regular and overtime hours that the employee worked;
  • The rate of pay for both regular and overtime hours;
  • An indication of whether the employee is paid weekly, hourly, daily, or by another method;
  • The net and gross wages for the pay period; and
  • An itemized list of credits and allowances that the employer claims per pay period.

The WTPA ensures transparency and empowers workers to recognize and challenge any discrepancies in their compensation.  Employers failing to comply with the WTPA face civil penalties, interest, and damages, on top of the employee’s unpaid wages.

Statute of Limitations For Filing an Unpaid Wage Claim

It’s critical to be aware of the statute of limitations when pursuing unpaid wage claims in New York.  Generally, employees have six years to file a claim for unpaid wages in New York.

What Steps Should You Take To Recover Unpaid Wages?

If your employer refuses to pay you in accordance with the law, consider the following steps to best position yourself for recovery of your unpaid wages:

  • Document everything: Keep records of your hours worked, pay stubs, and any communication with your employer.
  • Discuss the issue: Communicate with your employer about the unpaid wages to resolve the matter amicably.
  • Consult an attorney: Seeking legal advice can help you understand your rights and explore potential legal actions.
  • File a complaint: If discussions fail, you may want to file a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor or the federal Department of Labor to hold your employer accountable.

Protection From Retaliation

New York law protects employees from retaliation for asserting their rights under wage and hour laws.  If you take steps to recover your unpaid wages, your employer cannot retaliate against you.  If you face adverse actions such as termination, demotion, or harassment after taking such steps, you may have a retaliation claim against your employer, in addition to a wage theft claim.


If you find yourself facing unpaid wages in New York, remember that you have rights and legal avenues for recourse.  Contacting an employment attorney can provide guidance tailored to your situation.  For further guidance on wage theft and other employment-related issues, reach out to a member of our team for next steps.


Photo by Emil Kalibradov on Unsplash
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