I Was Shorted Several Hours on My Last Paycheck. What Should I Do?

Nov 15, 2022
By Peter Friedmann

When you get paid by the hour, your employer has obligations under federal and state law to pay you for all hours worked. Additionally, companies need to pay most hourly employees at least time-and-a-half for each hour they work over 40 hours in a seven-day period or “workweek.” Similar wage and contract laws also guarantee fair pay, though usually not overtime, to employees who earn salaries.

Those laws, primarily the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), further require employers to keep careful records of all time that each employee works, specifically, the number of hours worked per day. When an employer complies with the law, no worker should ever end up working unpaid hours.

But what happens if you have been underpaid? If you’ve found yourself asking questions like, “I’ve been underpaid. Do I have to wait till next payday?” and “Can an employer hold your paycheck for any reason?” we’re here to help.

What To Do If Your Employer Shorted My Paycheck?

Now, mistakes do happen. If your employer shorted your paycheck one time, the best solution is usually just to talk with your manager or Human Resources about resolving the paycheck short problem and receiving your full payment.  Typically, this can be worked out without hiring an attorney.

As unpaid wage attorneys, we know that too many employers intentionally withhold fair wages and refuse to pay earned overtime. When an employer shorted your paycheck and refuses to remedy the issue, the most effective response is to work with an employment lawyer to hold the employer accountable and ensure it complies with the law.

How to Tell Your Boss Your Paycheck is Wrong

Once you realize a discrepancy in your pay exists, approaching your boss or the HR department for resolution is a good first step. There are a few different ways you can tell your boss about being underpaid.

  1. Write an email that details the payment discrepancy and provides relevant evidence. This provides you with written documentation of the fact that you communicated your shorted paycheck to your employer and allows you to follow up with them easily.
  2. Schedule an in-person meeting with your employer. Bring relevant evidence along with you such as pay stubs, your own records of hours worked, and even documents that detail your payment agreement. You can explain why you believe your paycheck is incorrect.
  3. You can also consult with an employment attorney beforehand if you wish. They may be able to provide more specific guidance on how to communicate the issue to your employer.

Keep Track of Your Own Hours

Proving that your employer owes you back pay or unpaid overtime requires presenting evidence that you worked all of the hours you claim you did. One of the best forms of evidence is a notebook or computer spreadsheet in which you log all your time spent working so there is no discrepancy as to the number of hours you worked.  Additionally, an unpaid overtime attorney can request your payroll records pursuant to the Ohio Constitution. By law, an employer must provide those records upon request. You may be able to use those to prove all hours worked.

Share Your Concerns with Co-Workers When Your Employer Shorted a Paycheck

You can also legally share your concerns with co-workers and discuss whether your employer is shorting their pay in addition to yours. When a pattern of underpaying wages extends to several — or even all — employees, you may have grounds for filing a class action or collective action lawsuit to seek back pay and sometimes liquidated damages for all victims.

Consulting with an Experienced Lawyer If Your Paycheck is Short

Consulting with an experienced employee rights lawyer will help you understand what information to document related to how many hours you are working and how you can speak with co-workers about whether they may be experiencing a similar issue.  Be aware, too, that employers who cheat their workers out of fair wages and earned overtime might choose to retaliate in other ways against employees who raise concerns. This type of retaliation is unlawful, and it is not common. Seeking advice from an attorney will give you peace of mind and allow you to be prepared should you need to take any action against your employer.

You Do Not Need to Keep Working for a Company That Does Not Pay You

While it is very helpful for you to collect evidence that your employer shorts your paycheck regularly, you do not need to continue suffering exploitation as a worker to prove your case. Meaning, you do not need to continue to work for an employer that does not pay you correctly.  The statute of limitations for wage and hour claims is 2-3 years so ensure that you act on any wage and hour issues immediately.

How Long Does an Employer Have to Correct a Payroll When it is Wrong?

The amount of time an employer has to correct a payroll error will largely depend on the state they are in and if there are any specific legal guidelines that address underpayment errors.

For example, the Ohio Revised Code details when employers must pay employees on a semimonthly basis. Section 4113.15 also details how long an employer has to pay unpaid wages.

“Where wages remain unpaid for thirty days beyond the regularly scheduled payday or, in the case where no regularly scheduled payday is applicable, for sixty days beyond the filing by the employee of a claim or for sixty days beyond the date of the agreement, award, or other act making wages payable and no contest court order or dispute of any wage claim including the assertion of a counterclaim exists accounting for nonpayment, the employer, in addition, as liquidated damages, is liable to the employee in an amount equal to six percent of the amount of the claim still unpaid and not in a contest or disputed or two hundred dollars, whichever is greater.”

So in Ohio, your employer will have sixty days to correct payroll errors once you bring the error to their attention.

Can an Employer Hold Your Paycheck for Any Reason?

Your employer cannot hold your paycheck for any reason. You are owed payment for the time you have worked.

Can a Company Hold Your Paycheck if You Quit?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) specifically states that employers do not have to provide former employees with their paychecks immediately. But former employees are owed a final paycheck for any wages earned, meaning that your employer cannot hold your paycheck if you have quit.  In Ohio, R.C. 4113.15 mentioned above would apply, as far as timing.

Can an Employer Withhold Your Pay as Punishment?

No, an employer cannot withhold your pay as punishment.

Can An Employer Withhold a Final Paycheck to Force an Employee to Return Company Property?

As established above, an employer cannot withhold a final paycheck. Employees are owed their wages for any time worked, even if they have not returned company property.

Can I Sue My Employer for Not Paying Me Correctly?

Yes, you can sue your employer for not paying you correctly. There are steps you can take before filing a lawsuit against your employer such as communicating the pay shortage and consulting with an employment lawyer.

But you can pursue legal action against your employer should they not rectify the situation. This will typically be done by filing a wage and hour lawsuit, which a wage and hour attorney can assist with.

Damages from a lawsuit include:

  • Back pay
  • Liquidated damages
  • Interest
  • Attorney fees

Connect with The Friedmann Firm Today

The unpaid wage lawyers in the Columbus, Ohio office of The Friedmann Firm welcome opportunities to fight for unpaid overtime. We offer free, confidential consultations, so call us with your questions and concerns at 614.610.9755. We also take appointments online.