If I’ve been fired but did not receive my final pay and now my former employer is threatening me, what are my rights?

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If I’ve been fired but did not receive my final pay and now my former employer is threatening me, what are my rights?

I was fired from my position of 8 years, and was not paid for the last 3 weeks of work. I even gave my employer and extra week to pay me and he refused. Now he is not only withholding my pay but threatening to take legal action against me because some of his former accounts are attached to my old company email address. The company email that belongs to him. Since I am fired and unpaid, am I legally obligated to help him sort out his company problems?

Asked on October 13, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) You must be paid your final pay, even if the employer feels you owe it something or did something wrong; the law is very clear that employers may not withhold or deduct from employee pay except a) with employee consent or agreement, or b) as ordered by a court or the IRS (e.g. wage garnishment). You are doing the right thing by filing a wage claim--that's one of the ways to get the money. The other way would have been to sue for it, such as in small claims court (if the amount was under the small claims limit) as your own attorney or "pro se").
2) You do NOT need to help your former employer out--you can't withhold their property from them (so if this was a company email address, you'd have to give them the password to it) or actively interfere with them (no deleting company emails), but that's the limit of you responsibility: there is no need to affirmatively do anything to help them. If they want your help, they can pay for it. (E.g. I was once fired from a job where the employer then realized, "Oops--he's the only one who knows critical information. They paid me a fairly large consulting fee to spend 2 weesk documenting what they needed to know and training my successor.)


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