My current employer I've worked for for over a month has yet to pay me. They have set their business up to pay employees weekly so they are four paychecks behind. They claim they do not have the money but will soon. Needless to say, I'm looking for a new job.

I know it is illegal for my current employer to be shorting me on paychecks, and I'm willing to take legal action, but I'd rather have a new job before I get involved in a lawsuit against my current employer as that may be a detractor for any prospective employers.

What I'm wondering is how should I respond to interview questions as to why I left (or am leaving) my current job? I want to be honest but I know that prospective employers look down on negative responses/slander against previous employers but I'm not sharing a negative opinion just stating the facts as to why this job is really not working out; but I still don't know if its appropriate to speak about the fact that my current employer is breaking the law at an interview for a new job.

Can anyone offer me some good advice as to how to proceed?

  • see also: Why is it not a good idea to “badmouth” a previous employer?
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 22:21
  • This is not the same as the question you're saying it duplicates. This one is much more specific: not just "this was a lousy job", but "they didn't pay me". I can think of several points of advice that I would give that are different for this specific complaint than for a general "it was a lousy job".
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


It's not defamation to state facts. If they ask why you are leaving, just indicate, they have not paid you in 4 weeks. It can be a real plus for a more stable company that an employee is looking for stability, because it means they are less likely to run after the next startup that comes along.

Also, quit working for free. Tell your current employer that you will not be doing any further work for them until they make good on the back pay. You don't have to tell them you are looking, but you should not assume you will get paid for any work you have done to this point. Consider it experience and move on.

  • It is a very bad idea to refuse to work. Instead, legal actions should be taken, these include demanding your wage (in my country, including a huge increase based on percentages per day they are late), potential ending in filling bankruptcy. As part of these legal actions you might be able to stop working, but outright doing so without taking legal advice might just result in getting fired for refusing work.
    – Dorus
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 8:04
  • He isn't being paid! It's illegal to ask someone to work and not pay them. There is no contract in hell that will burn this guy for refusing to work when he isn't being paid. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:16
  • Yes, but he should only do so after winning legal advice, not before.
    – Dorus
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:23
  • I've looked it up: Under the Dutch law, you should not refuse to work: you can just get fired for that and then you have nothing. Instead, you should warn your employer he's late paying you. Funny things happen if he still refuses: you get a 5% interest per day for day 4 to 8, and 1% per day after that (up to a max of 50%). On top of that you can also get a normal interest. Only in cases where payment is really really late, you can increase the pressure by refusing work. Of course, if you don't mind to get fired (for example, you found a new job), you can refuse to work at zero risk.
    – Dorus
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 15:01

I disagree with Bill Leeper.

Negotiate with your "boss" that you will forego legal action if they provide a positive reference for you.

In the interview, don't say your "boss" can't pay you just say you're looking for something more challenging.

Now, should you choose to sue your old boss, do so after you secure a position with the new employer.

  • In my experience on both sides of the table, I have never found it a negative to say I wasn't getting paid or wasn't getting paid what I was worth during an interview. It shows honesty and as I said, many organizations, especially ones who struggle with talent leaving for startups, will find this a positive vs. a negative. Now if you are interviewing with another cash strapped startup, well that's just a glutton for punishment. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 14:18

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