Unpaid Wages, Including Sample Demand Letter

Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Read this in: Spanish / Español


Dealing with Wage Theft

Wage theft is when the employer doesn't give you, the worker, what the employer owes you. Wage theft can come in many forms. Simply, wage theft is any instance where you don't receive a benefit you've earned. These benefits include pay, access to meal and rest breaks, worker's compensation, etc. Wage theft can happen by mistake or done by an employer unintentionally. 

Here are some signs of wage theft: 

  • A paycheck is repeatedly incorrect even when asked about 
  • There are no meal breaks or you do work tasks even though you are clocked out 
  • You are an hourly worker who completes overtime hours but don't get overtime pay 
  • Your boss tells you to work off the clock 
  • Your workplace missclassifies you and your work status preventing you from getting minimum wage or overtime pay. i.e. a contractor for a company that does the work of an employee but does not get the same benefits employees do
  • The employer makes you pay upfront for a uniform. Your employer may take the cost of the uniform from your paycheck but can't lower your hourly wage below the minimum. 
  • You buy something with your own money, for your employer, but they don't reimburse you
  • You leave a job, but your employer does not pay your final paycheck. 

Unpaid Wages

Whether you were fired, laid off, or resigned, your employer must pay you all amounts due, either by the next regular payday, or no later than 15 days after your last day at work, whichever is first. You are due all wages, earned vacation pay, and any other amounts your employer has agreed to pay you or you are entitled to by your employer's policies. You can find this law in Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 23, at 23:631. These laws are in most libraries.

Yes. Any part that he agrees you are owed, must be paid when due. 

Your employer should make the usual deductions - for example, for taxes. Some employers take out more money from a last paycheck, saying money is owed for breaking or taking something, or for another reason. This may or may not be legal. You should speak with a lawyer if you do not agree with it.

You can ask your employer for your money in writing. Your demand can be by letter, e-mail, text, or fax; most employers refuse to sign for certified mail. You may want to talk with a lawyer first. Keep a copy of your demand. If you have to go to court to get your money, you may need to show it to the judge.  

If your employer will not pay, try to get a lawyer to ask for the money for you. If you have to go to court to get your money, and win, the judge should make your employer pay your lawyer's fees.  The judge should also make your employer pay you extra money as a penalty.  You can usually sue your employer in the Justice of Peace, City or State District Court where you live.  

If you can't find a lawyer, you can often do it on your own. Many courts have forms that are easy to use. Here is a sample letter, but it may not be right for your case.  You can use the form printed here or you can use this program to help you fill in the information for your letter.  To use the form you must have a first and last name for your ex-employer. If you get a "popup blocker" message or have other trouble with the link, you may need to hold down the Control or "CTRL" key while clicking on the link.


Your name
Your Street Address
Your City, State, and ZIP Code  
Your Employer’s Name
Your Employer’s Street Address
City, State, ZIP Code  


[The Date]


Dear [EMPLOYER'S NAME]:         


My job ended on [put here the day of your firing, lay-off or resignation].  More than 15 days have passed since then and you still owe me money for my work.  You owe me at least [put here the amount you believe you are owed].  I ask for immediate payment of the amount due.  If you do not pay this in full, you may become liable for payment of all costs and attorney's fees if I have to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit to get what you owe me.  You may also be liable for payment of additional money as a penalty, as well as legal interest.         


If you believe you do not owe me the full amount I have stated, but only a part of it, the law requires you to pay me immediately the amount you agree you owe me.  You should also tell me the reason why you are not paying the full amount.        


Please send the amount due me to my current address:         [put your address here]  


Sincerely, ________________________ [Your signature and printed name]                                 

  • Make sure you keep a copy of the demand letter for your records in a safe place.
  • Keep proof of when and how your mailed the letter.
  • If you use a Proof of Mailing Receipt from the Post Office, keep that in a safe place. 
  • If you use Certified Mail, keep your Certified Mail receipt in a safe place. 

Unpaid Wages Guide

Unpaid Wages Guide

This "LibGuide" has general information on Unpaid Wages, plus a link to a program you can use to automatically create an unpaid wages demand letter. Just answer a few questions and your letter will be generated. This program does not provide legal advice.

Demand Letter Creator

Online Demand Letter Creator

This program will help you create an unpaid wages demand letter to send to your employer. 

NOTE: When the computer program creates your form you may need to adjust the size or "zoom" of the document to make sure the format is correct and to be sure that you can see the signature lines. Read your form carefully when you get it from the computer. Look to see if your form has areas where you need to circle a choice, check a checkbox, or fill in other information, such as a Social Security Number. Check forms for places where it must be signed, dated, or notarized, or where a court case number or other information must be written in.

Last Review and Update: Sep 12, 2022
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