Unpaid Wages and Wage Claims

Your employer is required by law to pay wages timely.  You should demand your wages for any work you have done if your employer has not paid when you were to have received them.  If this fails, then you can use the courts.

Before using the court system, you must decide which court to use.  If the amount of your unpaid wages is less than $3,000.00, you may find the Small Claims court to be cheap and fast.  Please review our fact sheet which explains the procedure for filing a complaint in small claims court.  If your wage claim is over $3000 you should consider hiring an attorney,

If your employer goes bankrupt, you should file a Proof of Claim with the Bankruptcy Court.  Wage claims may be paid ahead of some of the employer's other bills.


Most lawsuits for wages are based on the employer's agreement to pay you in exchange for the work you do.  There are also federal and state minimum wage laws.  Government agencies may help you get the minimum wage, but they will not get you any higher amount your employer agreed to pay you.

The federal minimum wage law requires certain employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.  Also, the employer must pay at least time and a half for each hour worked beyond the regular 40 hour work week.  This federal law applies to employers with over $500,000 a year in gross sales and does business across state lines.  The U.S. Department of Labor, Division of Wages and Hours investigates violations of federal minimum wage laws.  Call (866) 4-USWAGE. 

The Ohio minimum wage law requires certain employers to pay at least the Ohio minimum wage, which is currently $8.10 per hour.  Ohio minimum wage law may cover your employer if federal law does not.  You can also file a claim with the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Labor and Worker Safety at 614-496-9076 or at www.com.ohio.gov/laws/MWOTComplaint.aspx. 

You have two years from the date your wages were not paid in which to sue.  Under federal law, you may recover your unpaid minimum wage and "liquidated damages."  The court may award you attorney fees and costs.  If your employer has violated the Ohio minimum wage law, you may recover the unpaid minimum wages, attorney fees, and costs. 

Other Online Resources:
United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division: www.wagehour.dol.gov


This article is meant to give you general information and not specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated April 2012.