A Comprehensive Guide to Recovering Unpaid Wages in New York

Employment Law News | May 13, 2024

Unpaid wages occur daily, but thankfully, New York has laws to provide additional protections for its workers and procedures to help them reclaim these wages. At Gattuso and Ciotoli PLLC, we believe you deserve to be paid for your work and will fight for your rights to receive that compensation. If you have wages withheld from you and have been unable to resolve the issue without assistance, it may be time to bring in an experienced Syracuse employment law attorney. Whether you retain representation or not, you can recover those unpaid wages. 

What Qualifies as Unpaid Wages

The first step to claiming your wages is determining if you have wages that are legally due to you. According to the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL), these can include illegal wage deductions and withheld wages. However, with a few exceptions, unpaid wages will include:

  • Failure to pay for all hours worked
  • Bounced check for insufficient funds
  • Your pay was lowered without prior notice
  • Failure to pay all tips

Unpaid Wage Supplements

Wage Supplements refer to specific forms of pay that may be part of your employment benefits. These can include paid time off, such as vacation, sick, or holiday pay, and agreed-upon bonuses. Being aware of these potential supplements is essential when assessing your unpaid wages. 

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Unpaid wages in the form of minimum wage is when you are not paid at least the current minimum wage. This may commonly affect restaurant workers, making an hourly rate below minimum wage with the expectation of being supplemented with tips to meet the minimum requirement. You may also claim minimum wage extras if your work day exceeds 10 hours from start to finish. 

Overtime should be paid for any hours over 40 in a set week. The NYDOL states this is typically paid at 1.5 times the standard rate. For example, if you make $10.00 per hour, your overtime amount should be paid out at $15.00 per hour worked over 40.

Non-Wage Items

Non-wage items are separate from specific wages that were illegally withheld or not paid. These may include failing to provide the day of rest required by New York Law, not allowing the required break periods, or even failing to provide a pay stub. Additionally, this can include fines regarding adverse action towards you following a complaint. 

Filing a Claim With Labor Standards for Unpaid Wages in New York

Before filing a claim, you should always bring your concerns to your employer’s attention and attempt to rectify the issue internally first. This can be done through your supervisor and Human Resources department. If you cannot recover your wages that way, you can proceed to the Department of Labor. According to the DOLs Information About Filing a Claim, you will fill out an LS223 claim form if you are requesting any of the above payments. Some exceptions are for farm workers, salary history complaints, and pay equity complaints, which should complete LS 710, LS608.1, and LS 608.2, respectively.

Upon completing the form, you can mail the form and supporting documents to The Division of Labor Standards at Harriman State Office Campus Building 12, Room 185 B Albany, NY, 12226. 

You may also send the information by e-mail to the address listed on the Labor Standards Complaint Process page. The Department of Labor requests that you include any additional information you can provide, including any documentation regarding your claim, such as benefits information, pay stubs, returned check documentation, or any other information. The DOL requests that you only send copies and not original documents. 


The department will send a letter within 25-30 business days with your case number. It may also include additional information about your case. It is important to keep this document for reference. If substantiated, the case will be assigned to an investigator when one becomes available, and the investigation will begin. This investigation typically begins with attempts to contact your employer through phone calls or e-mails and may continue to onsite investigations if necessary. 

Alternative Options to Recover Unpaid Wages

You have other recourse if you do not want to file your claim through the Department of Labor. How you move forward will depend upon the wages you claim. In small claims court, you can file your claim without an attorney for $1,000 to $5,000. These come with a fee of $10 and $20, respectively. You will go to the office and print the statement of claim to begin the process. 

Denied Claims

If you have been notified of a denial of your it could be one or more of several reasons:

  • You worked outside of New York 
  • I have already filed for recovery in small claims court 
  • Claiming commission from sales
  • Wages are due from a government agency, town, or city
  • Working as an independent contractor or self-employed
  • Your claimed wages are subject to a union’s grievance or arbitration procedure
  • Have a benefit policy that excludes the types of wages claimed

This is not an exhaustive list, and there may be other reasons that the department denies your claim. If you feel the denial is a mistake or inappropriate, you may benefit from contacting Gattuso and Ciotoli PLLC for additional assistance. 

Another reason a claim may be denied is legal timeframes. According to the above DOL complaint process page, claims must be submitted within three years of the recovery date. The claim may also be denied because it was filed before the 30-day window required to file it. 

Recovering Unpaid New York Wages

Once the investigation is concluded, the department has several means to acquire compliance. If your employer has not paid the owed wages within a reasonable amount of time, you may be able to pursue collection action on your own, or it may escalate to criminal charges. If the employer fails to comply, they may be prosecuted for violating New York labor laws. However, this will result in criminal charges, not the recovery of the wages. If you are having trouble recovering the wages due to you, contacting an employment law attorney may benefit you.