Is it illegal to withhold payroll checks?

UPDATED: Aug 4, 2011

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Is it illegal to withhold payroll checks?

The last 2 pay periods, my boss has held payroll checks, saying that we won’t get them until 3 minor waste products are claimed. What would be our best route to go as employees?

Asked on August 4, 2011 Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It is completely illegal. There are essentially no legitimate grounds for withholding payroll checks; when employees do the work, they must be paid.

You have two--not mutually exclusive--options:

1) Contact your state department of labor, explain the situation, and see if they will investigate or take action.

2) Go to an employment attorney and bring a legal action for the money. Even though this is clearly more expensive than filing a complaint with a government agency, you may wish to do this: the attorney can immediately seek a court order requiring the employer to deposit the funds with the court (or take other steps to secure the money), to make sure that the money will be there to pay you. In a case like this, it's not uncommon for their to be some wrongdoing--the payroll being used to keep the company afloat, by paying other expenses, or being stolen by an owner or executive. You want to make sure the money is not used up or diverted. If several other employees have also been affected, you may be able to jointly retain an attorney to reduce costs.

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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