I was working at a bar and, by the time I was hired, my manager said that I would always work 6 shifts of 6hrs each, always on the same days and time. Hours were ok, but I complained about the money and he said I could sign two hours more per check (checks were weekly). So, I would work 6x6=36 hours a week and would sign up for 38. He told me, since my hours would always be the same, that I should always sign for 38 hours and have it as it was a salary (even though, technically, it was not). When there was an exception and I had to work more hours to cover the other employee (hence there was just 2 employees) those extra hours would be added to my paycheck based on the 38 (ex: if I had two extra hours to receive, I would get paid 40 hrs. this would be authorized, verbally, by the manager).
Here is what happened: After 2 years working on that place, having 4 checks a month with the same value, or with added hours having the 38 as a base, the owner decided to look at the payroll. Now I realized that the manager had not reported this deal to the owner. As a result I was fired and accused to add the 2 extra hours without nobody authorizing it. The manager is probably afraid of suffering retaliation and is denying the whole story. Plus: the owner does not want to give me my last check.
What is the best way to proceed? Can I sue them or the manager? How can I claim my last paycheck?
So I am assuming that the 2 hours more per week were not actually worked. The problem that you are going to have is that you have no proof that you had the authority to claim the 2 hours. The owner can claim that you stole those hours. With that being stated, an employer cannot withhold paychecks. This is not only in violation of employment laes in MA, it is also "self-help." Think about it this way: I believe my neighbor stole my rake so I go over and take his shovel. Am I correct either morally or legally? No. I would advise you to contact an employment attorney and possibly the MA Attorney General.
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General Practice Lawyer
You are entitled to your last paycheck for the hours you worked. He has civil remedies to recover the money that he claims you fraudulently obtained. Are you filing for unemployment? If yes, I suggest that you hire an attorney because your employer will most likely fight it based on his story. If no, send a demand letter to your old employer demanding your wages.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
Your employer cannot legally withhold your last paycheck. You can send a demand letter to your former employer and, if you get no response, file a complaint with the Attorney General's office.
Your employer could still come after you for the overpayments your received over the past two years and may have a strong case to challenge your unemployment claim.
If you choose to go after your final paycheck and/or file for unemployment, it would likely be in your best interest to hire an attorney to assist you. You can search on Avvo for an employment attorney in your area or contact the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association or Massachusetts Bar Association for a referral.
This answer is provided for guidance only. DO NOT rely on it as legal advice. We DO NOT have an attorney-client relationship. You should contact an attorney in your area for a one-on-one consultation before pursuing any action or making any decisions.