Not paid? Little recourse

CONSUMING INTERESTS

Your Money

November 13, 2007|By DAN THANH DANG

The Q:

Do you have a right to collect interest on a paycheck if an employer is late with your wages?

Mike McGee of Towson was outraged recently when his two 19-year-old sons waited almost a month to receive their final checks for their summer jobs as lifeguards for a local pool management company.

"Both sons turned in their keys on 9/4/07 of this season and did not receive a paycheck for a few weeks," McGee said. "At some point towards the end of September, when they pushed the issue with [the] office manager, he told them that they did not get credit for turning in their keys due to their supervisor having misplaced them. However, checks would be mailed soon."

Son Marc received his paycheck a few days later. Son Ian, however, waited more than a week later after calling the company again before he received his final pay.

"Do Marc and/or Ian have any recourse to collect or request interest on their money due?" McGee asked. "They work under a contract during the summer, which only protects [the company] should an employee quit before the end of the summer or not show up for work when scheduled. Nothing in the contract specifies how timely paychecks should arrive.

"Is there a law which requires money to be paid within a certain time frame? I don't like to see kids get taken advantage of by companies."

The A:

The McGees are sunk unless they want to pursue this through legal means.

According to the Maryland Guide to Wage Payment and Employment Standards, it's generally up to an employer to set regular paydays, "and pay all earned wages of an employee on time regardless of whether the employee has turned in a time sheet or punch card, quit without notice, or provided any other form or document required by the employer."

Had the pool management company failed to pay the McGees, they would have a legitimate beef. If a court found that wages were withheld in violation of the Maryland Wage Payment Law, and not as a result of a bona fide dispute, the wage guide says that a court could award damages of up to three times the amount of the unpaid wage plus attorney fees.

In the case of the McGees, however, "As long as you got paid, albeit late, there is no provision in the law where you could collect interest," said Richard Avallone, program manager for the state's Division of Labor and Industry. "Even though it's late, they've satisfied the law because you've received payment for work completed."

To avoid such problems in the future, parents should caution young wage earners to read employment contracts (or parents should read the contracts with their working children) before planting a signature on vague agreements that don't spell out when and how wages will be paid.

Reach Consuming Interests by e-mail at consuminginterests@baltsun .com or by phone at 410-332-6151. Find an archive of Consuming Interest columns at baltimoresun.com/consuming.

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