How long do I have to wait to get paid before I sue?

UPDATED: Dec 7, 2011

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How long do I have to wait to get paid before I sue?

I am a musician who was wrongfully terminated after my last gig. However, I have not yet received payment for that last performance, which was 2 weeks ago. How long do I have to wait to get paid before I can take my former employer to small claims court? Also, can I collect damages because, knowing him, I’m certain he’s deliberately withholding paying me out of spite.

Asked on December 7, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Dakota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) If you were an independent contract (not actually an employee) of this business, then payment was due per the contract or service agreement you had; whenever it is late according to that agreement, that is when you may take legal action.

2) If you were an employee, then it depends on your state: some states require payment whenever the next regularly scheduled payroll would have been; others require it by end of the month or within a certain number of days; a very few require it the day of termination. You need to either look up "final paycheck" for your state, or else repost your question identifying the state you are writing from.

3) There are no additional damages available, unfortunately, for the check being withheld out of spite.

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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