Sometimes a dispute concerning wages, overtime, or other monetary benefits can arise with an employer. Many people believe that they will have to get an attorney involved if such a situation arises. However, this is not always the case. A wage dispute may sometimes be resolved without legal intervention simply by sending a letter through certified mail, return receipt requested, to the employer advising them of your claim. If you do not receive a response to the first letter, send a follow up letter advising them that you will proceed to legal action if your demand is not met.
If your matter has not been resolved after sending the second letter, you may resort to suing in small claims court to help collect the compensation you are owed if it is an amount up to $5,000. You can do this pro se, but first you must have a valid claim. This means you must:
- Identify the person or business that caused you harm
- Calculate the amount of damages you suffered
- Show there is some basis in law to have a court award you damages
- Be sure you were not the main cause of your own harm, that you haven’t waited too long to start the action, and that you didn’t sign a written release
Usually the claimant will pay a $25 fee and either go to court in person or mail in a complaint which includes your name and address, the name and address of the person whom you are suing, the amount of money you are owed, the facts of your case and the reason you are seeking a remedy.
You can only sue to collect money. Make sure you keep a list of all incurred expenses from your employer including gas mileage, tolls, telephone costs, sales tax, and interest if applicable.
Your employer can respond in one of a few ways. First, they can either deny your claim in writing, appear in court to deny the claim, counterclaim, or settle out of court. If your employer wishes to proceed to small claims court, you will have several weeks to prepare your case. During this time, you should prepare any relevant paperwork including the letters you sent, contracts, tax returns, receipts, canceled checks, etc. In addition, consider any witnesses you may have to attend the trial on your behalf and prepare your testimony.