Unpaid Wages, part 3
In Parts 1 and 2, I discussed some of the consequences for not paying wages and strongly advised employers to pay their employees in full and on time whenever at all possible. The trouble is, sometimes it just isn’t possible because the money isn’t there. In that all-too-common situation, the employer is often «judgment proof.» In other words, even if the employee wins the lawsuit and gets a judgment, they cannot collect on it because there are no assets to take. You can’t squeeze blood from a beet.
Washington’s lawmakers recognized how often employers in unpaid wage cases are judgment proof and, in their attempt to ensure payment of wages, made certain individuals personally liable for unpaid wages. Under RCW 49.52.070, any «officer, vice principal or agent of any employer» who wrongfully withholds wages shall be personally liable (except when the employee knowingly submits to the withholding, as discussed in Part 2.) In practice, courts have interpreted this to mean those with some control over the payment of wages, especially check-writing authority, are personally liable. Ellerman v. Centerpoint Prepress, 143 Wn.2d 514 (2000); Durand v. HIMC Corp., 151 Wn.App. 818 (2009). The Durand court also noted that personal liability in these cases does not turn on piercing the corporate veil, so an employer’s corporate structure does not protect the individuals from personal liability. Federal law on the issue is similar, though not identical. It is worth taking a look at this post for a discussion of federal law.
Individuals who have some control over the payment of wages need to be sure those wages are being paid. Otherwise, they risk personal liability and may end up paying those wages out of their own paychecks.
For more information about wrongful withholding of wages, please consult a Seattle Employment Attorney.
Last updated: September 9, 2010
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For Rebecca E. Ary, employment law is a high-stakes, highly personal area of law that holds the power to turn the fortunes of both individuals and businesses. The sense of betrayal, anger, powerlessness and loss of trust associated with failed employee/employer relationships can overwhelm even the most level-headed and seasoned professionals. Which is why hiring a skilled professional like Ms. Ary is so critically important. With a deep desire to help her clients and in-depth knowledge of employment law, Ms. Ary practices her craft with exceptional skill and attention to detail. She takes a balanced, analytical, strategic approach that allows the strength and fairness of the law to prevail. Ms. Ary’s talent for listening and her ability to develop a persuasive and creative strategy positions her clients for more positive outcomes. A skilled negotiator and litigator, Ms. Ary is well-respected by her peers and known throughout the legal community as a powerful advocate for her clients.
Ms. Ary received her Juris Doctorate degree from University of Washington School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from University of California, San Diego. She was recently included in Super Lawyers 2010 – Rising Stars Edition, a national professional lawyer’s listing that recognizes a small percentage of all Washington state lawyers and identifies outstanding individuals who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement in their field. Ms. Ary is a member of the Washington State Bar Association, the King County Bar Association, the Washington Employment Lawyers Association and American Mensa.
In her free time, Rebecca has served as a volunteer for NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness), and Literacy Source, an organization dedicated to helping adults learn to read. She is an avid reader who also enjoys hiking, and spending quality time with Elaine, her cat.