The Employee’s Spider Web: Written Demand for Wages Owed

By Greg Smith posted in Wage & Hour Claims on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Updated with video in October, 2017.

Utah law says “whenever an employer separates an employee from the employer’s payroll [in other words, the employee did not quit, but was let go] the unpaid wages of the employee become due immediately, and the employer shall pay the wages to the employee within 24 hours of the time of separation at the specified place of payment.”

 

Just been fired? Utah employment law and 24-hour pay rule explained

That may seem a bit unfair, after all, a day is not a long time. However, bosses typically know they are going to fire somebody long before they do it, and that may be why the law is so tough on employers that don’t pay fired or “downsized” employees within 24 hours.

If you are let go, you should give your boss a written demand for whatever you are still owed. A letter like the one below should be fine:

Dear [name of employer], I politely demand that you pay me what you still owe me, which I calculate to be $[amount owed]. Please, pay this immediately. You can email me at [email address], and I would be happy to pick up the check personally – just let me know when and where. If you send it via mail, please mail it to [your address] by either certified or registered mail, so I know it was sent. I’d prefer to just come in ad pick up the check in person. Thanks! [Your name].

Keep a copy for yourself, and even better, have the receptionist initial and date your copy, so you have proof you dropped off the other copy. It’s a good idea to email the letter, too.

After that, if the boss does not pay you within 24 hours, you will amazingly stay on payroll for up to 60 days – despite the fact that you may have already found a higher paying job elsewhere.

This is key: you must file your lawsuit (the Utah statute calls it an “action”) within 60 days from the date of separation from your employment, or you could forfeit that “penalty.”

Example: José fires Irska. While working for José, Irska was not paid for time she spent working for José just before she’d clocked in and just after she’d clocked out. She was also not paid for some time she spent working for José while off the clock at home. It was only about ten hours, but José knew Irska was putting the time in, and the work was done for the benefit of the employer. Over the past few months, José had been paying Irska $14 an hour.

So, two days after she was fired, Irska wrote the following, and left it with José’s receptionist:

Dear José, you still owe me $140 for the work I did while I was off the clock. I politely demand you pay me that immediately. Regards, Irska.

She also included her address, etc. In other words, the spider web is now spun.

José just laughs and throws the note in the trash, not knowing the law only gives his 24 hours to pay on the demand. In other words, the fly is foolishly flying right into the web.

Irska waits seven weeks, then has her attorney sue José. While working for José, Irska made about $2,200 monthly in wages and overtime. José is furious when he learns that he now owes Irska $4,400 for two more months of her wages (because he did not pay on her written demand), and Betty’s court costs and legal fees, which are around another $2,000. What really makes José mad is that Irska found a higher paying job the very next day after she was fired.

So, because José refused to pay Irska $140, he ended up paying her $6,400. Most employers just don’t see how serious it is when they don’t timely pay an employee. Here is what the law says:
(b)(i) In case of failure to pay wages due an employee within 24 hours of written demand, the wages of the employee shall continue from the date of demand until paid, but in no event to exceed 60 days, at the same rate that the employee received at the time of separation.
(ii) The employee may recover the penalty thus accruing to the employee in a civil action. This action shall be commenced within 60 days from the date of separation.
(iii) An employee who has not made a written demand for payment is not entitled to any penalty under Subsection (1)(b). Utah Code Ann. § 34-28-5

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