Did your employer pay you for fewer hours than you worked? Or paid less than you were promised per hour? You can take these steps to get paid.
Step 1: Are you actually supposed to be paid by the hour?
Sometimes employers mis-represent the kind of work employees are doing. One common way is by calling a job “salaried” instead of hourly, even if the actual work doesn’t qualify as salaried employment under the law. Generally, if you:
- do not supervise other employees,
- do not perform management or high level administrative tasks, and
- do not do a job that involves exercising independent judgment on a regular basis,
you probably should be paid by the hour. This is the general rule, but there are some exceptions.
If your employer calls your job “salaried” but you do not think this is accurate, you should contact a lawyer. A violation of the law in this area has a penalty that includes attorney’s fees, so often a lawyer will represent you without charging fees up front.
Step Two: How much pay am I owed?
If you do not have a record of the hours you worked, you will need to ask your employer for your personnel file. The law requires an employer to keep a record of the hours you worked each day if you are not a salaried employee. You can use our form to ask for your file: Request for Personnel File.
Your employer should not require you to just write down “8:30 to 5” every day on a time sheet. A record should be kept of the minute you actually start working. Your employer can round off to the nearest 15-minute increment, as long as they round both up and down. For example, if you clock in at 7:56 for an 8 am shift, your employer can round up and pay you starting at 8:00 am. But if you clock in at 7:51, your employer must round down and start paying you at 7:45 that day. Most computer timekeeping programs already do this. The same is true for lunch breaks—if you work through lunch, your employer must pay you for it.
If you kept your own record of hours worked (or you already got the records from your employer), add up the hours you worked each week. Use the same work week your employer uses. (Most employers have a Sunday to Saturday week.)
Maine law requires an employer to pay an employee at the agreed-upon hourly rate for up to 40 hours of work per week. And you should be paid "time and a half" for any hours over 40. Use this chart to help you figure out how much you are owed (Excel version; self-calculating) (Printable PDF version)
Step 3: How do I demand to be paid?
If you are no longer working for this employer, he should pay you all wages owed:
- within 14 days of receiving your written demand, or
- by the next regular pay date,
whichever is first. If you are not paid by that date and you bring a claim in court, you are entitled to three times the wages owed. This is the penalty the law imposes on an employer for not paying an employee what he has earned.
To make a wage demand:
- Prepare a Demand for Unpaid Wages
- Give it to your employer.
- Keep a copy for yourself.
- Write down the date the employer received it.
Step 3: What do I do if the employer still does not pay me?
If the employer does not pay you within 14 days of getting your demand, the next step is to file a Small Claims Court action. Get help from the court online. Or go to your nearest Maine District Court to get printed instructions.
When you file your Small Claims Court case, state that you are entitled to three times the wages owed. Write on the form: “I request three times the wages owed, and the other penalties required by 26 MRS §626 and 626-A.”
Caution: If you are owed more than $2,000, your total claim (wages x 3) will be more than the $6,000 limit of Small Claims Court. Contact your nearest Pine Tree Legal Assistance Office. We cannot represent you in court, but we can try to find help for you.