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  • Unpaid wages, with a twist

    Hi all,

    I know that I will likely end up having to speak to an attorney about this, but I figured I'd give it a shot here.

    My ex-employer currently owes me a final paycheck. They have had difficulty making payroll several times this year, and they've missed the last three pay periods, but have paid two of them. The last payday was three weeks ago, and to my knowledge none of the employees has been paid for that last period. I was recently terminated because I had refused to continue driving in to the office, as it's a substantial commute and I frankly couldn't afford to do it with the continued slow paychecks. Incidentally, our local office is in Florida, but the company is based in Georgia. There are also no written policies that I've seen on employment matters, and my termination letter was sent to me with no previous disciplinary action having been taken at all.

    Being a matter in FL/GA, I'm taking it as a given that the state will be of no help here, and my most likely recourse will be via civil action. I frankly am concerned that the company may be nearing bankruptcy, so I'm thinking I want to get a judgment which can then be turned into a lien, which will put me in a much better position if they *do* declare. My employment agreement states that all legal disputes will be handled via arbitration in GA. Now things get more interesting, as in the course of doing my research, it appears the company I work for doesn't legally exist. There is no record of an entity by that name in either the GA or FL secretary of state's records (LLC, DBA, nothing), and there is no record of an occupational license being issued in the city or county where our FL office is located. There is also no record of a license being issued for the specific address of the local office.

    My questions:

    - Since my employer doesn't appear to actually exist, how safe is it to assume that the employment agreement is null and void, and that I would not encounter any jurisdictional issues in my local small claims court?

    - the company I work for, whether it's real or not, has a corporate parent that *does* exist, the HR director of which I've been in constant contact with since I started. How difficult would it be to hold *them* accountable for the unpaid wages?

    - Assuming I can make this work in small claims, what are the odds I will be able to recover damages due to the tardiness of the last few checks? (late fees, damage to a near-perfect credit history, etc.)

    I apologize in advance if this is a confusing situation, and I'd be happy to answer any questions or clarify anything if needed. Thanks.
    Last edited by Gremmie; 10-21-2009, 12:15 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Unpaid wages, with a twist

    Doing a quick Google search for Florida Wage and Hour laws it seems that the state of Florida does not have a wage and hour division. This is unfortunate in your case, as many states mandate the amount of time employers are required to provide final payment of wages.

    Although the following source is not an official legal source (http://www.employmentlawhandbook.com...e/Florida.html), it states:
    "Payment upon Separation from Employment

    Florida does not have any laws dictating when an employer must pay wages to employees
    who:
    - have been fired or discharged;
    - voluntary quit or resign;
    - have left work due to a labor dispute or strike; or
    - are laid off"

    However, Florida does have several US DOL offices - the list can be found following the link below - you might want to contact them for advice:

    http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/america2.htm#Florida

    Good luck.
    Information provided should not be construed as legal advice.

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    • #3
      Thanks for the response -the lack of any meaningful worker protections in Florida law was why I'd said I wasn't counting on any help from the state. Additionally, as I understand it, the federal DOL could only force them to pay me minimum wage. I've pretty much accepted that suing them is the only way to get the money I'm owed unless they voluntarily give me that last check.

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      • #4
        You can try small claims court.
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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