Rice & Co., LPA | Kollin Rice
Both state and federal law require employers to pay their employees, and provide for attorney fees to be awarded to successful plaintiffs. When I have handled these cases, the amount of attorneys fees the defendants end up paying often dwarf the amount of unpaid wages. As a result, an attorney may be willing to take on good cases of this sort with minimal retainers. In order to seek payment under those laws you will need to have some evidence that you were an employee and that you performed work. Sometimes the employee's testimony alone is sufficient to do this, but check stubs and time cards often are useful.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Law Office of Cindy Lin | Cindy Lin
One option is to file a claim in small claims court. The cost of this is usually between $15-30, depending on the court/state. If you google "small claims court" for your location, you will likely find a detailed process. Usually, if you win your small claim, which includes if the defendant does not show up (this is called default) then you can also recover the costs that you incurred in seeking reimbursement. Small claims proceedings are quite informal, so your daughter will have the opportunity to tell her side of the story. It is unfortunate there is no proof of the agreement. However, anything she may be able to gather showing that she did the work (witnesses, etc.) may help support her argument in small claims court. A judge will often make a decision immediately, based on the testimony of the sides present. So, unlike a civil lawsuit for unpaid wages, her word may be sufficient, though of course, any evidentiary support can only help.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Komanapalli Massey LLP | Mark A. Massey, Esq.
The answer depends upon the sort of community in which you reside, how well you know the scoundrel who stole your daughter's efforts, and the willingness of local law enforcement to assist her. In a small community setting, peer pressure might do the trick. Simply spreading the word about how the employer cheated your daughter might cause the thief to reconsider.It is also more likely in a small community to get law enforcement to take action, if only by speaking with the thief about the wrongfulness, never mind the unlawfulness of his act, in order to encourage the jerk to do the right thing. If you reside in an urban setting such as Los Angeles, then your daughter's best bet is to file a lawsuit against the person in the small claims court. This is the route I personally would take regardless of where I lived. Small claims is informal and simple. The local Court Facilitator or somebody akin to that sort of employer at the courthouse surely could help her to fill out the proper forms. And, if she cannot afford to pay the filing fee, she could qualify for a "fee waiver," which only requires that she fill out a couple of additional forms which she would then file along with her form "Complaint" in the court clerk's office. She would file in the courthouse nearest her employer's business or residence. Attorneys are not permitted in small claims court, so there are no attorney fees in any of those cases. Further, the court could order the thief to pay any costs your daughter shells out in the process of suing him. She could also recover all costs she expended in attempting to get him to pay for the work he solicited from her (so long as the work she did was lawful which is a prerequisite for resorting to the courts for a remedy in any event). She would recover interest on the money she is owed, "prejudgment interest," at the legal rate, currently 10% simple interest. And, that it is simply a matter of "he said, she said," without any written agreements is of no consequence. The judge, commissioner or referee of the court will make a determination of who he or she thinks is telling the truth based upon each one's statements if there is no other evidence to proffer. However, if the work your daughter did is something she can demonstrate by taking a picture, such as a picture of the lawn she mowed, or if she can get someone who was aware of her working for the person to make a written statement under penalty of perjury, a "declaration,"or even accompany her to court to testify on her behalf, that would make her case all the stronger. Any sort of evidence is admissible in small claims court. Because lawyers are not involved, the courts generally allow a lot of leeway with regard to what it allows as evidence in support of or in defense against a claim. Your daughter also should think about filing a claim in that small claims suit for "fraud." If the person had no viable reason for refusing to pay her for her efforts, such as she did a lousy job and he can prove it, then it is entirely plausible to assert that he intended not to pay her when he hired her; that he intended to defraud her from the outset. She should make that argument because if the court is convinced she is correct, then it can order the scoundrel to pay "punitive damages" for his intentionally bad conduct. The court could literally order him to pay her ten times the amount he owes her, possibly even more, if it feels that he intended to cheat her from the start. Furthermore, it is quite apt to do so. Requiring an ass like that to pay a young girl a couple thousand dollars for intentionally cheating her out of the $150 he promised to pay for work she did for him is not at all out of the realm of possibility. Best of luck to your daughter.
Answer Applies to: California