The PAWPCL Protects Your Rights
Getting fired is stressful enough. But what happens if your employer fires you—and then never sends your last paycheck, or withholds your severance pay?
It’s not supposed to happen, but it does. And when it happens in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (PAWPCL) is there to ensure you get paid what you’re owed.
What does the PAWPCL do?
The PAWPCL allows employees to recover wages they’ve earned and that their employer has withheld. Depending on the situation and the employer agreement, this may include:
- Unpaid wages
- Severance pay
- Paid time off that you’ve accrued, but not used
- Commissions and bonuses you’ve earned
- Health and other benefits
The PAWPCL requires all employers to tell their employees, at the time of hiring, about their compensation and benefits—and to pay employees on a regular schedule.
Under the law, you get a regular, designated payday—the first day of the month, for example—and your employer can’t change it without proper notice, even if you’ve been let go.
If you don’t receive your last payment on the proper day, your employer may be in violation of the law.
What happens if my employer withholds wages?
If your employer doesn’t pay what it owes you, you can and should sue.
Under the law, the word “employer” is fairly broad—and applies not only to the corporation that employs you, but also the individual in the company who made the decision not to pay you. Theoretically, that person could be held responsible if you sue.
If you win your case, you’re entitled to the full amount of wages and other payments you’re owed—plus 25% in liquidated damages, which kick in when your wages aren’t paid for over 30 days past your regular pay day.
You’ll also be entitled to reimbursement for your attorney fees. And it’s important to note that if your employer wins its case against you, you won’t be required to pay their attorney fees.
How much time do I have to bring a lawsuit?
This law can be a very effective vehicle for recovering lost wages. However, there’s a statute of limitations on when you can bring a suit.
When you lose your job, your employer has until your next regular payday to pay you whatever extra funds are owed—and that includes severance pay. If they don’t pay you on your expected day, you have three years to bring the suit.
What should I do if my employer is refusing to pay me wages owed?
If your employer is refusing to pay you what it owes you, then you should definitely talk to an experienced Pennsylvania employment lawyer.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.