What if my employer fails to pay my wages? WPCL to the rescue

Many people in this country work from paycheck to paycheck, relying on each and every check to make enough money to get by. To pay their bills, feed their kids, put gas in their car. So when an employer fails to pay someone for work done, the law does not treat it lightly. If you are an employee and your employer has failed to pay you the wage due you can seek recourse through the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL). Here are some of the basics of the law and it’s operations.

The basics

The law does not create a right to wages, but it does provide a source of recourse when an employer breaches his contractual obligation to pay its employee. It applies to all employees in Pennsylvania and requires employers to notify an employee of the time and place for payment of wages. Additionally, if the employer makes any changes to the time and place, he must notify the employee.

When must the employer pay wages

The employees wages become due according to the terms of a written employment contract, within a period of time customary in the trade, or within 15 days of the end of the pay period. These rules allow some wiggle room for the arrangement of the regular payday, but once the payday is fixed, the employer cannot arbitrarily change it.

Who is an employer?

In one of the more extraordinary provisions of the law, it covers all employers, private or governmental, and it covers a corporate agent or officer and it can hold them personally liable for the payment of wages. If the corporate officer had decision-making power she may be personally liable for the payment of unpaid wages.

This law has teeth

If the wages remain unpaid for 30 days or where no payday has been set up, for 60 days, the employer may be subject to liquidated damages. The amount of liquidated damages is 25% of the total wages due, or $500.00, whichever is greater. A court can also award attorney’s fees, that, when compounded with liquidated damages, can lead to a doubling of the award. The employer can avoid the liquidated damages penalty only if a legitimate dispute exists concerning the amount of wages to be paid.


Many employees in Pennsylvania live from paycheck to paycheck. The Pennsylvania legislature takes this matter seriously and has set up a law with strong punitive power to enforce the payment of wages. The ability to sue the corporate officers and the fact that liquidated damages and attorney’s fees are recoverable give this law real teeth. If you have not been paid wages or know someone who has not been paid wages, do not hesitate to contact an attorney and use the power of the WPCL to your advantage.[1]

[1] Rogers, William James, A Primer on the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law Thomson, Rhodes and Cowie, P.C., View PDF.