What Defines Unpaid Wages?
Generally speaking, an employer must pay its employees for the work that they perform. This is true whether you are paid hourly, salary, commissions, or by the piece, or any other method for determining the amount. In Indiana, these wages must be paid either twice a month (semi-monthly) or every two weeks (bi-weekly). Failure to pay wages earned can result in penalties for the employer up to two times the amount of unpaid wages, plus attorney’s fees.
In Indiana, if you are an hourly employee with an agreed upon wage, your employer is obligated to pay you for the hours you work within ten (10) days of the payment period end. For overtime, an Indiana employee is entitled to 1.5 times his or her hourly rate for any of the hours worked past a 40 hour work-week. If an employer does not make these payments, an individual may have what is known as a wage and hour claim.
Indiana has two statutes, the Wage Claims Statute, Indiana Code §22-2-9, and the Wage Payment Statute, Indiana Code §22-2-5. The Wage Claims Statute is for employees that have either been terminated or are in a labor organization dispute. Individuals with a claim under the Wage Claims Statute, that is in excess of $6,000 must get approval from the Indiana Department of Labor to file a private suit against their employer. For claims between $30 and $6,000, the Indiana Department of Labor will collect your wages free of charge. If you have a claim for unpaid wages that is less than $6,000 a claim can be made by filling out the IDOL’s Online Wage Claim Form: https://www.in.gov/dol/2671.htm
The Wage Payment Statute is for employees who have voluntarily left employment or are still currently employed.
Under both Indiana statutes, an employee is entitled to liquidated damages ranging from 10% to no more than double the amount of wages due and reasonable attorney’s fees. These damages are in addition to the wages owed. These statutes are designed to pay individuals what they are due. Immigration status does not matter, and it is illegal for an employer to use immigration status as a justification for not paying wages.
The Indiana Supreme Court reiterated the importance of Indiana’s Wage and Hour laws and their importance for all workers who depend on their paychecks to be paid regularly.
“I write separately to observe that the facts of this case dramatize the point that the statute confers on all employees the right to recover treble damages and attorney’s fees for failure to pay wages, regardless of the employees’ circumstances. This is perfectly understandable as applied to the vast majority of workers who are dependent on their paychecks for their day-to-day expenses. These employees need the money currently, not at the end of protracted litigation, and often do not have the economic staying power to engage in a court battle over relatively small amounts. A statute providing one party with treble damages and attorney’s fees is a very substantial deterrent to an employer’s playing fast and loose with wage obligations. As applied to claims of most workers this is very understandable legislative policy.”
St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc. v. Steele, 766 N.E.2d 699, 706 (Ind. 2002).
If you have worked, but not been paid, please contact the employment attorneys at Goodin Abernathy, LLP to determine if you have a wage and hour claim. Your time and effort is valuable – talk to us to determine your options for recovering your hard earned wages.