It may seem strange that an employer simply may not pay an employee, for any number of reasons. However, it does occur. If it happens to you, you are not without recourse. It is possible to bring suit against your employer under South Carolina law, and you may be able to get as much as three times what you are owed. Here’s what you need to know when filing a wage and hour claim in South Carolina.
The first step toward receiving your due payment, assuming that you have attempted to reason with your employer already, is to file a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation (DLLR). Admittedly, however, there may not be much that the department can do. While DLLR can find that a violation has occurred, they have no real power to compel compliance in many cases. The power of the DLLR lies in issuing sanctions if it is found that your employer has not complied with the relevant law.
Still, filing a complaint is a good first step that can show that you have exhausted all the avenues besides court. Also, some employers will be more receptive to settlement requests after being sanctioned, as it can serve as a signal that an employee is serious about filing a wage and hour claim and collecting what they are owed. This most often happens in cases involving an employee who is an undocumented immigrant, especially in this day and age. Some employers try to get away without paying undocumented employees because they believe that the threat of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a deterrent to employees filing claims.
Going To Court
Depending on your employer, you can bring suit either under the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, or under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The most common reasons to bring a wage claim are lack of minimum wage payment and a failure to receive overtime pay, both of which are required by law. Weekends and holiday pay are not covered under these acts. But if you have a dispute regarding either of these, you may need to find other justification for bringing them into your lawsuit.
It is important to keep in mind that only employees are protected under these acts. If you are an independent contractor, you are generally stuck suing under standard contract law, rather than either of the wage payment acts, and alleging a breach of contract. While this very often will succeed, it is somewhat less easy to prove than an employee claim, simply because so much more is subjective than the other type of claim would contain.
Ask An Employment Attorney
Unpaid wages are no laughing matter for most workers and can sometimes mean the difference between bills being paid and serious financial trouble. If you believe you have an unpaid wage claim, contacting an employment law attorney can be a big help. Attorney A. Christopher Potts can assist you in determining the best path for you. Contact our office today to set up an initial consultation.