Are you having problems collecting wages owed to you or problems not being paid regularly? There is a law in Iowa to help you. It is called the Wage Payment Collection Act. (Chapter 91A, Iowa Code).
WHAT EXACTLY DOES "WAGES" INCLUDE?
- money owed for your labor or services whether based on a time, piece, or commission basis.
- plus vacation, holiday, sick leave, and severance payments due, under an agreement or policy of the employer.
- plus payments to medical, health, hospital, pension or profit-sharing funds due, under an agreement or policy of the employer.
WHAT CAN THIS LAW DO TO HELP YOU?
The law forbids your employer from making certain deductions from your wages or not paying you what you are owed. Under this law, you have the right to get the money you are owed. Your employer may also have to pay court costs and attorneys fees if you must go to court to collect your wages. If you prove the employer intentionally shorted you, the court also may make him/her pay you a penalty called "liquidated damages" of 5% of the wages due for each day that the wages are unpaid, up to a maximum of 100% of the total wages due.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS UNDER THIS LAW?
- Right to be paid your wages on regular paydays.
- Right to be reimbursed for authorized expenses within 30 days after you submit an expense claim.
- If suspended or terminated, right to be paid wages due not later than the next regular payday. Also prorated vacation pay must be paid if provided for under an agreement or policy of the employer.
- Right to receive a written, itemized statement of your earnings and deductions for each pay period, plus notification and explanation if your rate of earnings, hours or deductions are changed.
- If requested in writing, the right to have a written statement made available spelling out employment agreements and policies relating to vacation pay, sick leave, reimbursement for expenses, retirement benefits, or severance pay.
EMPLOYERS MAY NOT MAKE CERTAIN DEDUCTIONS FROM YOUR WAGES
An employer may not deduct from your wages these items:
- Cash shortages from a common money till or cash register operated by 2 or more employees (unless you are a manager who agreed in writing to be responsible for such cash shortages).
- Losses due to broken, lost or stolen tools or equipment (unless the tools or equipment were specifically assigned to you and you acknowledged in writing receiving them).
- Tips you get from customers.
Unless the employer's loss is caused by the employee's willful or intentional disregard of the employer's interests, an employer may not deduct from your wages these items:
- Losses due to bounced checks you accepted on behalf of the employer.
- Losses due to damage to property.
- Losses due to default of customer credit.
- Losses due to customers not paying for goods or services.
EMPLOYERS MAY NOT WITHHOLD ANY OF YOUR WAGES UNLESS:
- The employer is required or permitted to do so by state or federal law or by a court order; or
- You have given your employer written authorization to deduct money from your wages for a purpose that will benefit you.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR EMPLOYER VIOLATED THIS LAW?
- You may fill out a Wage Claim Form and send it to the Commissioner of the Iowa Division of Labor.
- You can also get the form by calling (515) 725-5919.
- This written complaint must be filed within one year from when the wages became due and the Commissioner will determine what to do with your claim: or
- You may sue your employer in Small Claims Court for the wages due you if the total amount of wages due from one employer is $6,500 or less. If you win your case, the court can order your employer to pay the court costs. If you decide to use small claims court, you may wish to ask your local Iowa Legal Aid office to send you the booklet Small Claims Court with instructions on how to file a case; or
- You may try to obtain the services of a private lawyer to help you file your case against your employer. If you win your case, the court can order your employer to pay your attorney's fees.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I WRITE TO THE DIVISION OF LABOR?
- If the Division of Labor finds your claim is good, they will help you get the unpaid wages you are owed.
- The law forbids an employer to fire or discriminate against any employee who brings a claim or files a complaint against the employer for unpaid wages.
The Iowa Division of Labor does not accept claims for wages when one of the following applies:
- It has been more than one year from the date the wages became due and payable
- Amount owed is more than $6,500.00
- Work was not performed in Iowa
- Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
- To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or
- apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.