Employees who want to collect back pay usually need a court order compelling their employer to provide the funds, although sometimes it is possible to negotiate a settlement privately. For court orders, it is necessary to go to court and present information about the situation to a judge, who can determine if back pay is owed, and how much the employee should receive. Government agencies can assist with this process and in some cases may file suit on behalf of an employee who has been denied back pay.
Back pay occurs when employees do not receive full compensation for their work because of issues like unpaid overtime, a failure to calculate wages correctly, or being paid at the wrong wage bracket. It is advisable to keep pay stubs and other records of employment, and to check these against personal records. If a disparity appears, the employee can discuss the situation with the employer and attempt to mediate privately before going to court. It is important to be aware that many nations have a statute of limitations, such as two years, on back pay.
If an employer refuses to pay, the employee can file a report with a government agency. The department of labor is usually responsible for handling such disputes, and may have a department that specifically focuses on wages owed. The agency can review the case and may decide to take it to court. It pays the court costs for the suit and works with the court to receive an order. This is more common in cases involving multiple employees or particularly egregious examples of back pay owed.
It is also possible to take the employer to court privately. Employees can file suit under the labor laws of their region to demand pay and receive a court order. This will require some out-of-pocket expenses, and employees may want to balance how much they expect to receive against the costs of filing suit in court. Employers tend to have deeper pockets and may be able to fight the case long enough for the employee's funds to run out, which is something to consider before filing suit.
With a court order to collect back pay in hand, the employee can demand payment from the employer. If the employer refuses to comply, the court can compel the employer to surrender the funds. Employers who feel the order is unjust can potentially file a countersuit to argue their side.