I worked for a small company for ~2 years. During that time, I made myself invaluable, etc. However, I eventually received an offer from another company that I decided to take. As a gesture of goodwill, when I put in my two weeks' notice at my old job, I offered to stay on doing contract work for them for as long as necessary.

I signed a contract where they agreed to pay me a certain rate (less than they would have paid any other contractor for the work I was doing). It was signed by both me and the CEO of the company.

One week after I started my new job, I worked x contracting hours. Week 2, I worked x hours again. They paid me for the 2 days of the month that I was still working for them at my previous salaried rate. However, they did not pay me for my contracting hours.

I sent an email at the end of the second week to do follow up. It was forwarded to the controller/accountant, who never responded. I emailed again, copying the controller, the supervisor, and the guy generally in charge of contractors with the same question, and never got a response. It's been another 2 weeks, and the normal pay date has come and gone without payment.

This is a fairly consequential amount of money. At this point, I do not intend to do any further work for them.

(Note: They've been taken to court for not paying contractors in the past, more than once.)


What is the best way to convince them to pay? I'd rather avoid any small claims court or anything.

What I've decided to do:

I'm going to create a formal paper invoice, email it to the controller, the guy in charge of contractors, the direct supervisor I was reporting to, and the CEO (who has his fingers in everyone's pot, which is part of the reason I left).

I'll be sending it to them from my personal email address instead of their company one. I'll also be sure to save any emails with regards to this somewhere besides on their computer to ensure I have any necessary evidence.

In addition, I'm going to print the invoice in a hard copy, with documentation of the hours that I worked, as well as a copy of the contract with the part where they promised to pay me highlighted (or is that too passive aggressive?). I'll also send them the times where I requested clarification on when I would be paid.

  • Hello @phroureo welcome to The Workplace. I see too many questions in your post, could you please try to narrow them to a single (or 2 at most) questions? This will help you get better answers, as other users will be able to understand better. Also, be careful as "Should I" questions or questions asking for us to make a choice for you are off topic in the site. I see you have valid questions, and other that could be reworded, could you give it a shot? – DarkCygnus Sep 29 '17 at 23:30
  • How are you reporting/tracking your hours? – Kevin Xu Sep 29 '17 at 23:34
  • @GrayCygnus Would this question border as a legal question? – Frank FYC Sep 29 '17 at 23:37
  • @FrankFYC in a way, but IMO is written more as a workplace question. In one of the questions OP indicated that a solution that does not involve lawyers is preferable (That is why I consider all those questions should be narrowed down to fewer, more concise). – DarkCygnus Sep 29 '17 at 23:42
  • @GrayCygnus Understood. Don't think my answer involves lawyers unless OP really holds laptop hostage (in which a criminal defence lawyer might be needed). – Frank FYC Sep 29 '17 at 23:44

Obligatory, I am not a lawyer.

Do I hold the laptop "hostage" until they pay me?

First and foremost, don't attempt to blackmail a company, although you didn't say where you were located, I am sure in all corners of the world, this would be frowned upon, i.e. illegal.

Alternatively, do I take the laptop back to them, apologize for not being able to do any more contract labor for them, and ask them for payment?

1) Do I ask for immediate payment when I take the computer in? Or should I settle for a date and a promise?

2) Do I send an email first notifying them that I will no longer be doing any contract labor? Or do I just show up on Monday morning with the computer and say, in essence, "Sayonara suckers"?

3) Is there some tactful way that I can get my money from them that doesn't involve courts/lawyers if they won't give me a date/check?

As for everything else, it will depend on your country where:

  • The Contract was signed
  • The Work Location
  • The Judicial Jurisdiction of the above points.

At least in the US, there are two avenues (that are easy for you) to retrieve owned monies: small claims court, where you sue the employer directly; and filing a wage complaint with your state's dept. of labor.

In the former, send a demand letter detailing the signed contract, via certified letter. If they don't pay up, then file a lawsuit in small claims.

In the latter, you would have to go through the wage complaint as outlined by your local/state dept. of labor which varies by state and location.

  • Thanks Frank. I guess I won't keep their laptop until I'm paid. :P This is in the US, fwiw. Labor board might be interested to know that they don't pay contractors... – phroureo Oct 2 '17 at 15:52

Do NOT state anything saying that you are keeping the laptop. What you can say is that you expect a cheque for your contract work, and that you still have their laptop, and if they decide they don't want you to do more contract work, then a time needs to be arranged when they can pick up that laptop from your home.


Don't take anything in, don't do any more work for them and if you're as invaluable as you think they will come looking for you. At which time present them with your bill once more and ignore anything that isn't a confirmation of payment.

This is the best strategy I have found. Just ignore them until they come to their senses. And then do not enter into any sort of negotiation or dialogue, just present your bill and ignore them again until it is paid.

  • The OP could be left ignoring them for a very long time if they have no intention of paying. – Simon B Oct 1 '17 at 22:26
  • Oh, I know I'm worth nothing to them now. :P I decided as soon as I told them that I would contract that if they didn't pay me a single time that that would be the end of our working relationship. – phroureo Oct 2 '17 at 15:51
  • @SimonB yes, that can happen, I would write it off to experience. But I wouldn't have given them a finished product without payment at this stage in my career. However it IS valuable experience which many freelancers go through and learn from. And it does usually come back to haunt them. However the OP at least has the laptop if they don't come back. If they do come back looking for it, just give the bill and ignore anything else. – Kilisi Oct 2 '17 at 16:38

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