Wage Payment Collection Law and Benefits
Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law and Potential Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits
What happens when your employer fails to pay you your paycheck? What rights are available to you under the a law known as the “Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law” (WPCL). What happens if you are discharged? Can you still file a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law offers a possible solution for an employee who has not received his or her paycheck, fringe benefits or wage supplements when they are due.
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides wage loss and medical benefits for injured workers.
What are the general time limits for the payment of a paycheck?
Wages/earnings are due within:
- the number of days specified by contract or;
- within 15 days of the established pay period or after the standard time lapse customary in the trade.
Fringe Benefits and Wage Supplements
1. 10 days after the payment is required or within 60 days after a claim is filed for Fringe benefits and wage supplements;
In order to bring a civil action to obtain your wages, under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, an action must be filed within 3 years of when the wages are due and payable.
What are the employer’s obligation regarding notice of payment?
The employer must notify the Employee at the time of hire of the manner in which the employee is to be paid. This can be accomplished in a number of ways but the point is that it must be made known to the employee. The Employer, can modify those benefits but only after notifying the Employee of the same. Once the payday date is established, it becomes “cast in stone”. This is so because it does not allow the Employer to change the date and time of wages to be paid based on vindictiveness, a downturn in the economy or even separation from employment.
What about if I leave my employment?
Often times, this issue of back nonpayment of wages comes up in a situation involving a separation from employment. Usually, this issue arises under conditions that would be less than optimal, i.e., termination from employment. Once the separation/termination occurs, your paycheck is due and payable on the next regular payday as if you had still continued to work for the Employer.
Where there is dispute over the amount of money due at the time of termination, the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law addresses the issue. If there is an undisputed and a disputed amount of money alleged to be owed or owing, the Employer has to pay the undisputed amount and assert a reservation of rights as to any disputed portion of wages. By accepting this payment, the employee does not waive his right to the disputed amount. However, this reservation is tricky for the Employer because there is a liquidated damages provision in situations where wages remain unpaid for a period of 30 days beyond the regularly-scheduled payday. There are other circumstances where they may extend as much as 60 days where no regularly scheduled payday is found. The employer MAY NOT have to pay liquidated damages in situations where it is found that the employer engaged in good faith, i.e. had a legitimate reason for not paying some or all of the wages allegedly owed.
How do you proceed to collect the wages owed to you?
Any Employee as defined under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection law may bring a civil action in court to recover the back-due wages. The employer can alsoinform the Secretary of Labor by filing a complaint regarding your wage claim and the Secretary of Labor will immediately notify the employer/former employer of the claim. The employer will then have 10 days after the receipt of a certified letter from the Secretary asserting the claim to either pay the Claim or provide a “satisfactory explanation” for the failure to pay wages due and owing. If the Employer fails to pay the claim within 10 days of the receipt of the notice from the Secretary of Labor, a penalty is imposed on the amount found to be due. The Secretary also may bring legal action to enforce the “decision” of his office. Finally, the Secretary may require the employer to post a bond for the amount in dispute less any good faith allegations for the entire amount in dispute. The bond must be posted within 30 days from the notice from the Secretary that a bond is to be posted. If the employer/former employer does not post a bond within the 30 day period, the employer will be treated as though they have admitted liability and an execution of a judgment can begin.
Do I need an attorney?
Under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law, it is not necessary but if you do hire an attorney, (we suggest you do), in addition to any judgment you obtain for the back due wages and liquidated damages if so awarded, (25% of total amount of wages due or $500 whichever is larger), the Act allows “costs for reasonable attorneys’ fees of any nature to be paid by the Defendant.” This means that if attorney fees are awarded, the employer, not you, will pay for the costs of your attorney. Please feel free to contact our office to discuss your options.
What if I have a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation claim?
If you are injured at work but not yet collecting Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation and were terminated, you may be able to simultaneously file a claim or reinstatement petition for Pennsylvania Workers Compensation and a claim under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law. The Employer continues to be responsible for your medical treatment related to your work injury and may also be responsible to pay the injured worker wage loss benefits.
Please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss your options.