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Unpaid Wages

Practice Area

How to sue an employer for unpaid wages.

Unpaid Wages

Maryland employers who fail to pay owed wages risk harsh legal penalties. They can end up paying you three times what they owe you, plus your attorney fees. They may even face criminal prosecution.

At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, we've earned a reputation for successfully recovering enormous amounts of unpaid wages. If your employer owes you wages, book a consultation with one of our experienced wage theft lawyers today.

What's the law on unpaid wages in Maryland?

When a Maryland employer doesn't pay your earned wages, they violate the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law. See Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. § 3-501.

Under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, you have up to three years to file a claim for unpaid wages. Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101.

This law applies to every Maryland employer and any out-of-state employer whose employees perform work in Maryland. Importantly, it does not apply to either:

  • independent contractors; or,

  • government employees.

The Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law safeguards the rights of employees to timely and fair payment of wages. Any delay or withholding of wages is a violation of this law.

If a court determines that an employer did not pay wages, it can require the employer to pay three times the amount owed. Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. § 3-507.2.

Finally, you can often recover your attorney fees under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law.

Do I need to file an unpaid wages lawsuit?

Recovering your unpaid wages doesn't necessarily require filing a lawsuit. If your employer owes only a small amount, and you don't want three times what they owe, you can file a government complaint. You can file your complaint here with the Maryland Department of Labor Employment Standards Service (ESS). Since this agency is short-staffed, expect a slow response; however, this is one way to recover your unpaid wages.

Before you file a complaint with ESS, you should send your employer a certified letter demanding your wages. This shows that your employer is aware of your claim and that you're serious about pursuing it. Try to stick to the facts, be respectful, and avoid lengthy complaints about the employer. This letter is likely to be an exhibit in an eventual court case, and you want to look reasonable.

But ultimately, most people prefer to hire an attorney to pursue their unpaid wages because:

  • you don't have to wait on a government agency;

  • you can ask a court for three times what your employer owes under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law; and,

  • you can make your employer cover your attorney fees.

Either way, you'll give your case a head start by collecting any records about your pay rate and the number of hours worked. You should also download any copies of pay stubs you have access to. You'll often find these in your employer's payroll processing portal (such as ADP, QuickBooks Workforce, or Gusto).

Does my employer have to pay out my unused vacation?

Yes. Maryland employers have to pay out unused vacation time to departing employees. See Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. § 3-505. It doesn't matter whether you resigned or your employer terminated you.

But there is an important exception to this rule. Maryland employers can escape this requirement by:

  1. having a written policy saying they don't pay out unused vacation; and,

  2. providing you with a copy of this policy at the time they hired you.

The "and" here is important—your employer needs to meet both of these requirements to avoid paying out your vacation.

In our experience, employers often think that issuing a new written policy gets them out of this requirement. But remember, your employer needed to give you a copy when they hired you. If your employer didn't have a written policy on this issue when you started, they have to pay out your vacation. It doesn't matter what their current policy is.

When Maryland employers don't pay out unused vacation, it's often because they don't understand this law. We frequently find ourselves explaining it to them and demanding they reimburse you for the required attorney fees. If your employer remains unmoved, we will file a claim for unpaid wages on your behalf, asking for three times damages.

If your employer won't pay out your unused vacation time, book a consultation with us today.

Do I still get my bonus or commission after I leave?

Many Maryland employers think that, after your last day of work, they don't need to pay you any bonuses or commissions. But, often, they're surprised to learn that they still need to issue you a check, sometimes months after you leave.

In Maryland, your employer generally owes you a bonus or commission that is payable after your last day. This is true as long as you:

  1. did all the work necessary to earn your bonus or commission;

  2. before you left.

See Medex v. Mccabe, 372 Md. 28 (Md. 2002). The key here is that you've already "earned" the bonus or commission, but it's not payable until after your last day.

Example. A salesperson earns commissions from sales but doesn't receive her commission payment until the customer receives the product. The salesperson completes a sale and then resigns. A month later, the customer receives the product.

Result. Even though the salesperson is no longer an employee, her former employer needs to pay her the commission. She did all the work necessary to earn the commission before she resigned.

These so-called "Medex" cases can be complicated; however, they can also have a huge impact on your finances. If you're not sure whether your employer owes you a post-employment bonus or commission, contact us today. Our experienced employment lawyers will be glad to help sort it out and get you paid.

If you are a Maryland employee and owed wages, book a consultation today.

Doane v. Strategic Housing Solutions LLC


In an unpaid wages case, obtained a trial victory and treble (3x) damages against employer.

Garner v. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corp.

In a wrongful termination case, resolved after obtaining sanctions against employer for destroying evidence.

Boston v. Dinocrates Group, LLC, et al.

In an unpaid wages case, obtained a judgment against Dinocrates Group, LLC for nearly $300,000.

We know that finding justice starts with meeting your objectives.

Results matter.


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In 2023, employment lawyers charged an average of $377 per hour. That's out of reach for most Maryland workers—the "access to justice gap" in employment law. Our mission is to help close that gap.



/ hour

Our scaled fees are up to 50% lower than for-profit employment law firms.  We cap payments on bills, which spreads out the cost of your case.

Payments are capped at $500 per bill (the rest rolls over)

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No retainer required

An employment lawyer reviewing a contract with a client

You don't have to fight alone.

Book a consultation with one of our Maryland employment lawyers today.

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