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I decided to leave my current job, and am going to hand in a letter of resignation very soon. However, my employer still has around six outstanding paychecks that they owe me.

The business has cash flow problems which is what caused these outstanding payments, and is one of the reasons why I am leaving. How can I ask for these paychecks in a polite and professional manner? What if they can't pay me all the paychecks upfront? Can they still pay me after I have left?

Thanks

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    It would be helpful if you could say where you/your company are in the world. – AllTheKingsHorses Dec 6 '16 at 10:24
  • Personally, I would consult a lawyer before handing in my notice. My preference would be to serve them with the legal document suing them for the paychecks with the resignation. That however may not be what the lawyer wants you to do. – HLGEM Dec 6 '16 at 18:32
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They owe you money. That does not change after you stop working for them.

What may happen is that once you leave, you are not more interesting than their other creditors to them. They will probably pay their existing employees first, to keep them on board, then their suppliers and after that pay the debts to you as an afterthought. If at all.

Depending on country, not paying their workers for a long time smells like Insolvenzverschleppung (roughly translated: failure to declare bancruptcy) to me, but I'm not a lawyer and I don't even know if a law like that exists in your country.

6 paychecks sounds like a lot of money, you may want to hire a lawyer to get all the details right to get your money.

  • Thanks! I agree they would pay their current employees first before paying someone who has left. It seems unlikely to me that they would be able to pay all the money in the next two weeks, considering how long it has taken in the past to receive paychecks. Is there any sure-fire way to ensure I receive all payments, like a written agreement or something? – Craig Dec 6 '16 at 10:56
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    @Craig That depends on your jurisdiction. You will need a lawyer for that. There is no surefire way if the company goes bankrupt though. It's the point of bankruptcy that most of the debt is gone. You will need a lawyer to check how to get the most of your money even in that case. So... get a lawyer. – nvoigt Dec 6 '16 at 11:07
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Not getting paid for six months is a huge red flag. You are doing the right thing by leaving. You should consider, though, that resigning essentially means that IF the company goes bankrupt in the near future, then you should NOT expect to get anything out. You will be in line with all other creditors.

I don't assume you are in a union. Kids, this is why we get in a union.

I would take on a "take the money and run" strategy - in that order.

Go to your boss. Tell him or her that you need to be paid. You too have bills to pay. Ask how much it would be possible to get immediately, and stick around until that money is received by you. Then hand in your resignation. The rest of the money owed is still money owed, but given the circumstances I would not be surprised if you need a lawyer to get it.

Be prepared that the boss might promise to pay you by "next week" or something, and once next week comes around, nothing. Then you should be prepared to cut your losses and leave. Every minute you work in this company from now on can be counted as free work on your side.

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First approach is to ask. Hand in your notice and ask your boss, "When can I expect my outstanding paychecks?" When he answers, just ask them to put it in writing in the form of a written response to your notice. Be generous, geive them a decent timescale (ie, let them pay it off as if you still work there). A verbal agreement is worthless, get it in writing.

If you run into difficulties at this point, use the Roosevelt ideology and point out that they owe you the money and they will pay the money, that you offered to keep it friendly but you will seek legal advice if you have to. Remember to talk firmly, but not aggressively.

Be aware that if they are reluctant and you have to push them, a reference is not going to happen and you will have to explain this to new employers.

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    "I had the choice between six months salary or a reference, so I took the salary"... – gnasher729 Dec 6 '16 at 13:59
  • @gnasher729 Well I have already secured another job so the reference is pretty much worthless. The salary is much more important. – Craig Dec 7 '16 at 4:58
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How can I ask for these paychecks in a polite and professional manner?

I presume that you have always asked for anything work or business related in a polite and professional manner, so you already know how to do that. The issue in this case is rather what if you ask and they don't give you what they owe you? Which in this case is more likely than not. Don't waste any time and brain power torturing yourself (and getting us involved) looking for innovative and original ways of asking for what's owed to you in a polite and professional manner when the issue is most likely that they don't have the money to pay you.

What if they can't pay me all the paychecks upfront?

If in the US, contact your state's Department of Labor and review your options with them. Otherwise, check with whatever government agency is charged with protecting your rights as a worker in your country.

In fact, consult your state's Department of Labor right now and find out from them what evidence you should produce to show that you actually worked for your employer. I would not like to see your employer denying that you worked for them for the last six paycheck periods - and get away with the denial. Make sure that you assemble your evidence before you hand in any resignation. Also ask your state's Department of Labor if you are required in any way to give two weeks' notice in view of the fact that you haven't been getting paid.

When resigning, make sure that your resignation is in writing - this means, signed, date stamped by a notary public and in a PDF or on paper. And includes your reason for resigning i.e. that have worked since whatever date without getting paid and that you are owed six paychecks as of whatever your date of resignation is. Again, check with your state's Department of Labor if the PDF format is acceptable in a court of law. Oh, and demand in your letter of resignation that they reply with an acknowledgement that you have given your resignation. Religiously hang on to their written reply.

Can they still pay me after I have left?

You performed the work, you are owed the money. It's that simple. The fact that they owe you the money is absolute and not contingent on anything except you owing them money. But even then, they need to pay you first as taxes are collected on your wages. Irrespective of any money you might owe them.

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