Can I take a past employer to small claims court w/o having signed their contract?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I take a past employer to small claims court w/o having signed their contract?

I quit my job the end of April 2017 and was supposed to be paid the rest of my
income in the weeks after that. I am a therapist, and the money my past employer
owes me is from insurance reimbursements and client deductibles. They owe me
between 4000 and 5000. They have ‘deactivated’ my work account so I am
currently unable to view the actual amount I am owed. And they have not
responded to my emails to re-activate it.

My employer had previously tried to claim that they could ‘withhold my money
because I was in breach of my contract’. I actually never signed their contract. My
question is then, since I haven’t signed the contract, does that disqualify me from
pursuing the money they owe me?

Thank you

Asked on June 11, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, not having signed the contract does not bar you from suing them for your pay. They *could* have refused to let you work in the first place until and unless you signed--that would legal. But if they let you work for them, they have to pay you for all the work you did; the law does not let them get the benefit of your services without paying you for them ("unjust enrichment"); and even if there was no signed written contract, when you did the work, you did so at least according to an oral (unwritten) agreement that in exchange for doing X, you would be paid Y--they may not breach or violate that agreement by not paying if you did your part (did the work).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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