Can I collect unemployment if my employer repeatedly did not pay me in full on the regular payday?

I have already filed a claim with unemployment in PA after I quit my job. I am waiting to hear their determination. In the questionaire, I cited multiple dates over a four month period of paydays that were neglected or only partially paid. I included copies of 2 paystubs that were partial payments. If it is possible, I would like to avoid having to appeal if I get rejected. Is it possible for me to be determined elligible based on my paperwork I submitted? I still have time to include additional information or documentation. What do you advise I include? And do you think i have good cause for quitting?

My employer has told me many times that she is behind on rent, bills, and taxes and that is why she can not pay us on time. I cannot work under these circumstances. The irregularity in pay was progressively getting worse, and I began to worry that the company could fold and I would lose out on any money that she owed me.

4 answers  |  asked Feb 16, 2011 12:46 PM [EST]  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (4)

Christopher Ezold
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.

That being said, Pennsylvania courts have held that being paid even a day late can be 'necessitous and compelling' reason to quit. The biggest question is whether you are currently owed any wages; if so, you should be able to succeed in a hearing on your eligibility for unemployment benefits. If you are not owed any wages, but have evidence of late payments, presenting that evidence to show a pattern and practice of late payment of wages may be sufficient. You should present pay stubs, checks, timecards and other documents to show that you were paid late. If you have any witnesses that can testify that they were being paid late at the same time as you, they would be helpful at the hearing.

You should also look into whether your employer paid the tax amounts she withheld from your paycheck to the federal government. If not, you likely DO NOT owed that money to the IRS; you've already paid it to your employer, who will be deemed the trustee of the money with an obligation to pay it to the IRS for you. Getting this straight before next tax season will save you headaches, however.

I would be hesitant to file a clalim with the Department of Labor and Industry; I have had clients whose claims have languished there for up to two years. I would suggest having an attorney get your money for you.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or number.

/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Suite 501
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 660-5585

posted by Christopher Ezold  |  Feb 16, 2011 1:25 PM [EST]
Doris Dabrowski
An employee who quits for compelling and necessitous reasons may qualify for unemployment compensation. You should present all time records and paystubs that show an underpayment. If your claim for benefits is denied, you must timely file an appeal. At a hearing before a referee, you have an opportunity to present evidence to prove that you quit for compelling and necessitous reasons.

If your employer still owes you compensation for work, you may have a claim for underpaid wages under the Pa. Wage Payment Collection Law.

In this Q&A format, I can only provide general information, rather than a legal opinion about your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship exists between us at this time. If you wish advice about your particular issue, you should arrange a consultation with me or another lawyer of your choice.

posted by Doris Dabrowski  |  Feb 16, 2011 1:01 PM [EST]
Scott Leah
The general rule is that when you voluntarily quit, you are not entitled to unemployment compensationa. However, you can still receive unemployment compensation if you quit for a necessitous and compelling reason.

You have a decent argument that you had such a reason. Your employer is obligated under the law to pay you for all of your time worked, and to do so on time. You cannot be expected to work and not get paid the full amount you are due, and your quitting because you were not may well be found to be a necessitous and compelling reason.

Do not be afraid to "appeal." If the UC office finds that you are not eligible, you should file an appeal. You will get a hearing in front of a UC Referee, who is trained in unemployment law. You can attend with or without a lawyer, but will have an opportunity to explain to the Referee why you felt you had to quit. Any evidence you have that you were not paid in full should be submitted to the Referee at the hearing, such as pay stubs, any emails or documents wherein your employer admitted not being able to pay you, etc. The employer may also fail to appear at the hearing, in which case your chances of winning increase dramatically.

Finally, if you are still owed money by your employer, you should consider filing an action in court (you can file before a magistrate if your claim is under $8,000) for the same. Because you can get attorney fees, you may want to hire an attorney to file the claim for you.

Alternatively, you can file a complaint with the state Department of Labor and Industry or the federal Department of Labor (Wage and Hour Division). They can investigate and try to get your employer to pay you any back wages you are owed.

posted by Scott Leah  |  Feb 16, 2011 12:57 PM [EST]
Harold Goldner
It is possible that the irregular and partial payment pattern created such "necessitous and compelling" reasons as would justify your quitting. That will be for the referee to determine.

If your prior employer still owes you money, you should contact an employment lawyer to determine whether it makes sense to bring a claim under the PA Wage Payment and Collection Law which would entitle you both to back pay and liquidated damages plus mandatory counsel fees.

posted by Harold Goldner  |  Feb 16, 2011 12:50 PM [EST]

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