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Wage Wars: Five Things Arizona Employees Should Know When an Arizona Employer Fails to Pay Wages

Categories: Employment, Article

Options when AZ employer fails to pay wages

Employers are legally obligated to pay employees wages for the work they perform. However, there are unfortunately circumstances in which an employer may refuse to pay their employees. There are at least five things Arizona employees should know when an employer withholds wages.

1. The Deadline for Payment of Wages Depends on Several Factors

Arizona law requires employers to pay wages at least twice a month, and pay days can be no more than sixteen days apart. However, different standards apply if the employee no longer works for the employer. If the employer chose to terminate or lay off the employee, all wages must be paid within seven working days or the end of the next regular pay period, whichever is sooner. If the employee resigned, payment is not due until the next regular pay day for the pay period in which the employee resigned.

2. There are Differences between Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees

All employees are entitled to be paid the minimum wage. However, different standards apply to exempt and non-exempt employees in the context of overtime. Non-exempt employees who work over forty hours a week are entitled to overtime wages under state and federal law. However, employers frequently misclassify employees. Thus, an employee classified as exempt by his or her employer may actually qualify as a non-exempt employee under the eyes of the law. Employees who have not been paid the minimum wage and/or overtime (if eligible) may be entitled to damages of double or triple back pay for up to three years, attorney’s fees, and costs.

3. Employers may Withhold Wages in Limited Circumstances

Arizona law only provides three circumstances under which an employer may withhold an employee’s wages:

  1. The employer is permitted to withhold wages under state or federal law;
  2. The employee previously provided a written authorization to withhold wages; and/or
  3. There is a reasonable good faith dispute as to the amount of wages due, including the amount of any counterclaim or any claim of debt, reimbursement, recoupment or set-off asserted by the employer against the employee.

If none of these circumstances apply, an employer that fails to pay wages timely is doing so illegally.

4. Employees May Seek Legal Action for Unpaid Wages

For claims of $5,000 or less, an employee may file a claim with the Arizona Industrial Commission. If an employee has a claim for over $5,000, he or she should consult with an attorney to discuss options. An attorney can also assess whether the employee has other potential claims under state and federal law, including claims for unpaid overtime.

5. Remedies for Failure to Pay Wages

If an employer is found to have failed to pay an employee in bad faith, the employee may recover up to three times his or her unpaid wages as damages. Thus, employees potentially stand to recover significant sums for unpaid wages in some circumstances.

About the Author: Alden Thomas is an employment and education law attorney and partner at Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. She advises employees and employers in a wide array of issues, including state and federal wage and hour, sick leave, harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and whistleblower laws.