# How do I ask my former boss for back pay when I've been grossly underpaid?

I worked for a chocolatier restaurant for barely above minimum wage.

After a year, I quit due to the low pay. Since then, I've done some research online and with other professionals to find that I was grossly underpaid, even for my age.

How do I tell my boss that I want her to pay me the difference between my wages and the standard wage?

• *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. (They aren't for answering the question) – jmac Jul 1 '14 at 23:34
• Are you aware of any laws in your jurisdiction that would support your claim of back pay? – corsiKa Jul 2 '14 at 17:00
• Depending on the country you are in, there are specific government bodies and organizations that deal with this type of situation to make the employers accountable. These professionals should be able to point you to the relevant authority for the country where you did the work. – Michael Lai Jul 30 '14 at 1:06

"How do I tell my boss that I need the money back that she never gave me?"

You don't. As far as the law is concerned, she is in the clear: she paid you the wages she paid and you implicitly agreed to these wages by staying on the job and cashing these wages without a murmur(*). The only way you can claim any money back is if she paid you below the legal minimum wage, but that's not the case here. If you ask and she gives you anything, that's because she wants to. Yes, you need the money but that's irrelevant because she has no monetary obligations to you under the law.

I congratulate you for doing your research, but the time to price your services is BEFORE you execute the exchange of labor for wages transaction NOT after. However, be cognizant of the impact of competition when pricing your services. You may deserve every dime of the money you ask for but that's not the point. The point is that someone may be willing to do the work for less money than you are asking for and that someone may get the job simply because the employer doesn't want to pay more.

Wishing you better luck with another employer.

(*) Quoting directly from FindLaw: Employment Contracts and Compensation Agreements: Getting Help with an Employment Contract: "Sometimes there is no written or oral agreement, but the behavior of the employer and the employee can be viewed as an "implied" employment contract."

• There's one exception/variation that should be considered. The minimum wage is the absolute minimum, but specific industries may have higher union-negotiated minimums. When this is the case, you still might have a claim against the former employer. It might also make irrelevant the part about salary negotiations (when the minimums are so high that they're effectively the norm) and certainly it doesn't matter then if someone else is willing to work for less. – MSalters Jul 1 '14 at 8:32
• *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. For extended discussions, Get a Room (a chat room). – jmac Jul 1 '14 at 23:36
• How did this question and answer receive so many votes? It is odd... – daaxix Apr 10 '15 at 6:16

when I turned 16 I started working for a chocolatier restaurant for barely above minimum wage.

In most jurisdictions, 16 years is old enough to work part time. You were paid above minimum wage which means the employer is 100% within their rights and responsibilities. If you can prove that you were paid less than an equivalent employee at the same time/ location/ shift for clearly discriminatory reasons (female, black etc.) then you may have a legitimate complaint. Being paid less than other employees that have 10 years experience and a relevant college degree doesn't count, they are not "equivalent" to your position. You mentioned that you compared your pay to "other professionals". At 16 you are not a professional - you are barely qualified to answer the phone.

Employers have no obligation to pay any "going wage" - they have a legal requirement to pay the minimum wage. Employees have the right to not work for that employer. You appear to have exercised that right by quitting.

How do I tell my boss that I need the money back that she never gave me.

That's quite a sense of entitlement. Unless your boss agreed to pay you $15 / hour and withheld$7 for questionable reasons you get nothing "back" as it was not yours to begin with. Your employer offered you a job at a certain rate, you accepted. That this rate was below market is your failure for not researching what that job normally paid for a person with your qualifications. Again, you don't compare yourself to a trained chocolatier, you would be looking at the entry-level zero-experience wage, and I'll bet that's right around the minimum you received.

You don't. You accepted the job offer back then. You negotiated a contract and accepted upon the then present terms. You are not entitled to any specific wage other than what you agreed upon. Beyond the technicalities of your situation, what you are trying to do is also unethical.

In short - you were free to turn the job down. Any wage is better than no wage, be grateful you were given an opportunity to work! (And remember, the most valuable things from a job are intangible - experience and training). Good luck with University!

The time to negotiate your salary is before you are hired, or when you are still working there and looking for a raise.

Your boss paid you for an agreed upon salary so the transaction is complete, the agreement fulfilled.

You can only sue for overtime that wasn't paid, because that is an illegal practice, not paying overtime if you are an hourly employee, not salaried which is exempt.