Employer withholding woman's paycheck: What now?

By Jordan Sandler - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - What do you do when you think your employer is wrong? A Midlands woman says someone stole money from the store where she works while she was on the job. Because of that, her boss refused to hand over her paycheck.
Now she's taking steps to get her money, and has some tips that could help you if you are in a similar situation.

"They tell me that I won't get a paycheck because four people robbed me," said Ashley Fontaine.

Fontaine says her manager at Knotty Headz body piercings on Decker Boulevard is refusing to pay her for 48 hours she worked. It's a paycheck of $400 her family relies on.

"It means I can't pay bills," she said. "I have a daughter to take care of. My husband was laid off last year."

On March 31, with just a couple hours left in her work week, a group of people swiped the cash box from under the register while Fontaine was distracted.

"After the police had left I asked my boss about my paycheck and he said I would not be receiving one because I was responsible for the money that was taken," she said.

The Richland County Sheriff'D department has been investigating the robbery, and they now have warrants out for two suspects. Deputies believe neither Fontaine nor the store were involved in the crime.

Fontaine says payday was April 1. As of April 15, she still hasn't received a penny.

The owner of Knotty Headz wouldn't talk to us on camera. He would only issue a statement through his lawyer. That statement says, "There is no dispute. This matter has been resolved." They wouldn't answer any other questions.

"It has not been resolved at the least," said Fontaine.

Fontaine immediately filed a claim with the Department of Labor. Spokesperson Jim Knight says if you find yourself in a similar situation, this is the best thing to do:

"File a complaint and let us come in take a look and see if the employer was within his right to withholding the wages," said Knight.

Knight says his department is investigating, and if Knotty Headz was wrong to hold her paycheck, the department can fine them up to $1,000. Knight says the company also needed to notify her in writing.

"I don't give you any notification in writing on that payday and you don't get a paycheck, then you've violated South Carolina law," said Knight.

"I was not notified in writing," said Fontaine.

Fontaine plans to sue Knotty Headz and try to find another job.

"I would never work for them again," she said.

If your manager holds your paycheck and you dispute it, file a suit with the Department of Labor. An investigation will typically take at least six weeks to complete.

Then hire an attorney. While the department of labor can fine the company, they cannot make your boss pay you. You'll have to go court. The court can make employer pay three times wages owed plus attorney fees.

Thursday night, Knotty Headz' lawyer gave us another statement saying the company has mailed Fontaine's paycheck to her. We'll let you know what happens.

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