The legal reference company, Nolo, says that the first step in claiming unpaid wages is the submission of written demand for payment to the employer owing them. If the employer still retains wages, the employee should go to the state's labor relations board and file a claim with the appropriate paperwork proving wages are owed.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires all employers to follow specific rules regarding payment to employees, including requiring a minimum wage and additional money for overtime pay. When an employer refuses to pay, according to the non-profit Workplace Fairness, the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) can be approached to initiate an investigation. Individuals may hire a private attorney to bring their own lawsuits against the employer or the DOL's Wage-Hour Division can bring a case against him.
Most states have specific rules that must be followed regarding how long an employer has to pay wages owed and other remedies an individual may have. In addition to contacting the DOL, the person owed wages should contact his state's labor division for specific rules governing his case. The complainant should always check state rules regarding when an employer must pay as well as the statute of limitations for filing a claim.
Nolo provides a list of several types of unpaid wage claims, including minimum wage violations, hours violations, paycheck deadline violations, vacation time violations, tip shorting and withholding too much from a salary. For complex cases that may involve more than one of these or cases that involve several employees, they recommend hiring a private attorney.