What Happens if My Employer Refuses to Pay Me?

If you work in Illinois, you are entitled to be compensated for your labor. There are various federal and state laws in place that are designed to protect your rights to prompt payment, and if those laws are violated, your employer could be held liable.

In some cases, your employer may attempt to avoid paying you (and in rare cases, flat-out refuse), in which case you’ll need to bring the law to bear against them.

The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act

For those scenarios where an employer neglects to pay wages in a timely manner (which may occur after termination of employment), the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) comes into play. This law requires employers to pay wages within 13 days (for biweekly payments) or 7 days (for weekly pay schedules) of the final day of the pay period.

If your employer does not pay your wages within this period, you are entitled to compensation equal to your unpaid wages plus 2% for each month late. Your employer may have to pay additional penalties as well, depending on the circumstances.

Criminal Penalties for Unpaid Wages

For instance, in some cases, your employer may be subject to misdemeanor penalties if they willfully refuse to pay wages. Penalty amounts in these cases depend on the amount that is left unpaid. In addition, a felony charge may be applied if your employer violates IWPCA wage payment regulations twice in the same year.

Personal Liability of Officers or Agents

In addition to the other penalties for unpaid wages, officers or agents of your employer who knowingly allow your employer to deny payment can be held personally liable. This part of the law only applies to those who have a role in setting workplace conditions and policies.

Minimum Wage Laws

In various cases, an employer may not necessarily deny complete payment of wages, but just part. One example of this is in the case of minimum wage. If your employer pays you below the highest applicable minimum wage for your location, you can recover the difference under Illinois law.

Unpaid Time Off

Any paid time off or breaks should be paid per Illinois and federal law. This includes times when you may need to work during a break. If you haven’t been paid for breaks and time off, then you would be owed the unpaid amount by your employer.


Per Illinois law, overtime pay is required for any amount of time you spend working beyond 40 hours in a workweek with very few exceptions. Again, if your employer hasn’t paid time and a half for any overtime hours you’ve worked, you’re entitled to recover that amount by law.

The Need for Legal Representation

In all these situations, it’s best to seek legal help. Your employer may use one method or another to try to avoid paying you, and it’s important to have some legal authority on your side if that happens. Hart David Carson LLP helps those involved in employment disputes, including those that involve delayed or denied payment.

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