What's Your Unpaid Wage Claim Worth in Idaho?

Learn how to calculate what you're owed in unpaid wages and penalties in Idaho.

In Idaho, federal and state law determine how much you must be paid, when you must be paid, and more. If your employer has failed to pay you properly or in a timely fashion, you may be entitled to recover not only your unpaid wages, but also penalties intended to punish your employer for violating the law. Below, we explain how to calculate what you are owed and how to assert your wage and hour rights.

Unpaid Wages

Employees must be paid at least the minimum wage per hour. You are entitled to be paid the highest minimum wage that applies where you work, whether that’s the federal, state, or local rate. Idaho employees are entitled to $7.25 an hour, which is the federal minimum wage and the state minimum wage. If the city or county where you work has a higher minimum wage, you are entitled to that amount.

To calculate your unpaid minimum wage claim, take the difference between what you were actually paid per hour and what you should have been paid per hour. For example, if your employer paid you only $5 an hour for your first two weeks of full-time work, you would be entitled to $2.25 times 80 hours (40 hours × 2), or $180.

If you receive tips as part of your compensation, your employer can pay you a lower hourly wage, as long as you receive enough in tips to make state minimum wage. In Idaho, employers may pay you as little as $3.35 an hour. However, if you don’t earn enough in tips to bring your wages up to minimum wage, your employer must pay the difference. To learn more, see Idaho Laws for Tipped Employees.

Unpaid Overtime

Failing to pay the overtime premium is one of the most common wage violations by employers. Although Idaho has no overtime laws of its own, Idaho employees are protected by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employees are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. While hourly, nonexempt employees have a right to overtime, other categories of employees are exempt. The most common exemptions are for outside salespeople and “white-collar” employees who do professional, managerial, and high-level administrative work (see our overtime page for more details and exemption categories). Unless your employer can prove that you fit into one of these narrow exemptions, you are entitled to receive overtime.

If your employer has failed to pay you for overtime, your unpaid wages are the difference between what you should have been paid and what you were paid. For overtime hours, employees are entitled to time-and-a-half. This means that you’re owed an extra 50% of your hourly rate, on top of your regular pay. For example, if you are usually paid $12 an hour, you are entitled to $18 an hour for overtime work.

Example: Neil earns $10 an hour at a grocery store, where he usually works 40 hours a week. A handful of his coworkers got the flu, so he has to pick up some extra hours. Neil works an extra four hours on three of his workdays in one week (for a total of 52 hours). For that week, he is entitled to his usual $10 an hour for the first 40 hours, plus $15 an hour for the remaining 12 overtime hours.

Unpaid Breaks and Time Off

Neither federal nor Idaho law requires employers to let employees take meal or rest breaks during the workday. However, under federal law, if your employer chooses to give you time off during the day, you must be paid for:

  • any short breaks (lasting 20 minutes or less) during the workday, and
  • any time during which you must work, even if your employer calls it a break. For example, if an office receptionist must eat lunch at her desk in order to cover the phones and accept deliveries, she is entitled to be paid for that time – even if her employer calls it a “lunch break.”

To calculate your unpaid break wages, add up how much time you spent on shorter breaks that should have been paid or breaks that you had to work through. Multiply this extra time by your hourly rate. And don’t forget overtime: Breaks for which you should have been paid count as hours worked, which means they may push your total hours for the week above 40 per workweek.

Penalties for Unpaid Wages

Federal and state law give employees the right to collect penalties in addition to the wages they should have been paid, if they win their administrative claims or lawsuits. Some of these penalties are described below; additional penalties may be available under state or local law.

Final Paychecks

In Idaho, you are entitled to receive your final paycheck on the next regularly scheduled payday, or within ten days after your employment terminates, whichever is sooner. If you make a written request to receive your wages sooner, your employer must give you your final paycheck within 48 hours of receiving your written request. If your employer misses these deadlines, you can receive a penalty of up to 15 days’ wages or $750, whichever is less.

Liquidated Damages

Idaho employers can also be required to pay liquidated damages under the FLSA. Liquidated damages are intended to compensate you for financial losses caused by your employer’s actions that are difficult to measure. If you win a lawsuit, you can be awarded liquidated damages in an amount equal to your unpaid wages. For example, if your employer failed to pay you $2,300 in overtime, you could receive an additional $2,300 in liquidated damages, or $4,600 total.

Filing a Lawsuit

If your employer failed to pay you all of the wages you are owed, you may be able to file a wage claim with the Idaho Labor Department. (The Idaho Labor Department allows you to file a wage claim online.) You may file a wage claim with the Idaho Labor Department only if the amount you are owed is no more than the limit for filing a claim in small claims court (currently $5,000). If your claim is worth more than $5,000, your only option is to file a lawsuit in court.

If you plan to move forward with a lawsuit or wage claim, talk to an experienced Idaho wage and hour lawyer about representing you. A lawyer can file a wage claim on your behalf or file a lawsuit in court. If you win, your attorney can ask the judge to make your employer pay your attorneys’ fees.

Whether you file a lawsuit or a wage claim, you must act very quickly. You have two years to file your claim or lawsuit if your employer failed to pay you at all. If you received some wages or salary, but you contend you should have been paid more, you have only six months to file. For violations of federal law, you have two years to file (or, if your employer's violation was willful, three years). A lawyer can also tell you if you have any other claims, such as a breach of contract claim, to which different time limits typically apply.

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