<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Northwest WageLaw, LLC

Northwest WageLaw, LLC

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The term “Wages” in most states and particularly in Oregon and Washington includes all compensation a person receives from employment. A non-exclusive list of compensation falling within this term includes:


  •    Pay for work performed - Salaried or hourly
  •   Vacation pay
  •   Commissions on sales

  •   Overtime
  •   Personal Time off
  •   Payments for travel or use of a car

    Whenever an employer does not pay all wages due when those wages become due, the employee has the right to sue to recover those wages along with up to 30 days of penalty wages, litigation costs, and attorneys fees.


    Wages do not include income received from the operation of a business or as an independent contractor. However, one of the hotly contested issues in wage claim cases is whether the person making the claim was actually an independent contractor or an employee. Click here to see the more detailed discussion of this issue at the “Special Issues” page of this website.


    Employers are motivated to avoid paying wages because for most employers in today’s service oriented economy, labor costs are the largest single cost of operation. In the long term, it is frequently cheaper for an employer to not pay the employees as required by law for as long as the employer can get away with that and then pay up when the employer gets caught at it. Even having to pay the employer’s own lawyers, back pay for an individual employee, penalties, litigation costs, and attorney fees of the employee, is cheaper than paying all employees as required by law.


    Employers have nearly endless ways of avoiding payment of wages. The most direct way is to encourage employees to work “off the clock” although the employer hardly ever just comes out and says this. Usually, the employer puts pressure on its managers to reach certain performance or productivity goals. The employer knows that to reach these goals, the manager will have to either do the work him or herself or find a way to get the other employees lower in the system to work without pay. Managers frequently tell the employees that they just have to do “whatever it takes” to get the job done. This usually means arriving a few minutes early or leaving late. This extra work is never recorded and usually contributes many hours a week of work for which the employer does not pay. Employers and managers use all manner of subtle and not so subtle ways of encouraging employees to donate time without pay, chief among these is to say that if the employee will not do as the employer asks, then the employer will find someone who will do it. Most people who have their livelihood threatened in this way simply do as they are told.


    Another way to avoid paying wages for all work performed is to simply change the time the employee enters into whatever time keeping system the employer provides. Managers frequently have access to the system and just change the amount of hours worked. This is far more common than one would think. But when the manager’s job is threatened by his or her superiors, then the manager is likely to go along.


    Other ways include shortening or not providing rest breaks and/or meal periods, keeping the employee locked in at closing time so the employer can search the employees belongings for stolen goods, not paying for travel time when that travel time constitutes work time under the law, not paying for preliminary activities necessary to get ready to work, and many others.

    If an employer takes an unlawful deduction, (see the Unlawful Deduction page on this website) the amount of the deduction constitutes wages which the employee has earned but has not been paid. This takes many forms. For example, some employers require employees to wear certain clothing which the employer provides. The employer then deducts the cost of the clothing from the employees pay. This is an unlawful deduction, at least in Oregon


    Most states, but surprisingly not all states, have laws generally know as wage and hour laws. These laws provide for when and how an employer must pay its employees. Some such laws provide the employees with private rights of action to sue to recover wages they have earned but have not been paid. Such wages are generally known as “unpaid wages.”


    Oregon and Washington are such states. In Oregon, an employee has the right to sue to collect unpaid wages. The law provides that an employee who obtains the services of an attorney to recover wages shall also be awarded costs of the lawsuit and reasonable attorney fees. If the employee loses, the employer may not recover attorney fees for having done so. (There are some situations in which an employer might be able to recover its attorney fees but those are very rare.) See the discussions in the Overtime and Minimum pages of this website. In most cases, employees do not have this exposure.


    In some cases, the employee may also recover money called a penalty. The amount of the penalty is usually 30 days of wages. Each separate violation incurs a separate penalty. Failure to pay on the regularly scheduled pay day is one violation that might the right to recover a penalty. Failure to pay overtime or minimum wage are others. There is also a penalty if the employer fails to timely pay all wages due at the termination of employment. See the Late Payment page of this website.


    In summary, employers purposefully do not pay their employees all their wages due in order to generate greater profits. Employees who have been deprived of their full pay have the right to recover those wages along with penalties, costs, and attorneys fees. Anyone who thinks they may have not been paid all their wages for whatever reason should contact a qualified wage lawyer and sue to get all that they deserve.


    Northwest WageLaw, LLC
    9220 SW Barbur Blvd
    Suite 119-312
    Portland OR 97219-5428
    Telephone: (503) 295-0431
    Fax: (503) 265-8244

    EMAIL: Information@NorthwestWageLaw.com


    Disclaimer: The information provided in this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing in this website consitutes legal advice or opinion. DO NOT act upon this information without first consulting an attorney. No attorney-client relationship is formed by visiting this website and until agreed to in writing. By using this site, you agree that you have read this disclaimer and agree its terms of use.