How Far Back Can You Claim Unpaid Wages in New Mexico?

August 11, 2022

Not being paid your earned wages after work is frustrating. Employees have a right to file a claim against their employer to recover unpaid wages in New Mexico. We’ll explain further.

Under New Mexico labor laws, employees are entitled to their regular rate and income earned for work done when due. Unfortunately, employers violate the law when they withhold their employees’ salaries. You are entitled to your unpaid wages depending on how long you have worked for the unfair employer. A New Mexico unpaid wages lawyer can help you understand your options for legal recourse and ensure your rights are protected under the labor laws. 

Not only are employers required to pay minimum wage, but they must also pay non-exempt employees for overtime hours when they work for over 40 hours. Employers who illegally take your wages should be held accountable under employment laws. Employees who are owed back pay can commence an unpaid wage claim against their employers under state and federal labor law.

Sadly, due to the complexity of employment laws, most employees don’t know the full extent of their rights. Hence, they stare at the brink of financial disaster without knowing what to do. This article aims to help you understand your rights to claim unpaid wages and how far back you can claim.

Overtime and Unpaid Wages in New Mexico

The Federal Flair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) and Mexico’s Minimum Wage Act have established the minimum wage rate employers must pay their workers. Employees are entitled to $11.50 per hour under New Mexico state’s minimum wage rate and $7.25 per hour under Federal Minimum Wage.

Also, non-exempt employees are entitled to a premium wage hourly rate for overtime hours for more than 40 hours worked in a single workweek. They are paid one and half times their regular pay for every hour worked in excess. If you work overtime and haven’t been paid, you are entitled to back pay against your employer. A New Mexico unpaid wages lawyer with knowledge of the overtime requirements may be able to help.

Agricultural workers are exempted under the overtime labor laws. It doesn’t also apply to delivery persons, independent contractors, and other classes of workers who are not paid the hourly minimum wage. An example is tipped employees.

What Is a Wage Claim?

A wage claim is a request filed by employees who meet the state and federal eligibility requirements to recover unpaid wages from their employer. However, before your wage claim can be accepted, you must have made a recent demand for payment. You can proceed with your unpaid wages claim if the employer denies payment or fails to pay as promised.

Furthermore, you can bring an unpaid wage claim against your employer if:

  • You have not been paid at all for the work you have done.
  • Unauthorized deductions have been made on your wages.
  • Your employer is not paying you overtime.
  • Your employer has refused to pay your bonuses and commissions.
  • Your employer paid you, but the check bounced.

What is Back Pay?

FLSA requires prompt payment of employees’ wages. Suppose your employer withholds your pay, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you are entitled to back pay. Back pay is the amount of salary or benefits employees can claim they are owed for work done in the past. 

Workers can be owed regular hours, commissions, salaries, overtime hours, bonuses, paid time off (PTO), etc. The most common reason for claiming back pay is wrongful termination of employment. Other reasons why you can be owed back pay include:

  • Minimum wage violations
  • Wage theft
  • Accounting errors
  • Dispute regarding paid leave or other benefits
  • Discrimination in salaries or promotions
  • A change in the classification of workers
  • Employers’ negligence, etc.

An employer who owes back pay must repay the total value of your wages and benefits from when the underpayment began until the claim is filed.

How Long Does an Employer Have to Pay You After Termination in New Mexico?

Business owners have five (5) business days to pay all employees due wages if they are fired or laid off from work. This requirement applies where the wages owed are a fixed and definite amount. If the employee is paid by piece, task, or commission based, the employer has ten (10) days to pay.

However, employees can voluntarily quit or leave their employment. When this occurs, the employer has until the regularly scheduled payday to pay the due wages. The same also applies where the employer leaves due to a labor dispute.

How Can I Recover Back Pay in New Mexico?

The law is on the side of employees who are owed wages. The FLSA has wage policies to protect employees from unfair labor practices. 

Wage violations and back pay issues in New Mexico are under the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) jurisdiction. While the federal government agency responsible for fair labor practices is the U.S Department of Labor

The method for recovering unpaid wages include:

File an Official Complaint With the Department of Workforce Solutions

The DWS is responsible for enforcing the payment of wages and overtime laws. Employees in New Mexico can file an official complaint with the DWS by filling out a Wage Claim Form. 

The Labor Relations Division (LRD) will conduct an investigation or audit to uncover wage violations. If the investigation shows your employer is in default, the department will supervise the payment of the unpaid wages. 

In addition, the Secretary of Labor may institute a lawsuit for back wages and an equal amount as liquidated damages. Furthermore, they can obtain an injunction to restrain your employer from violating the FLSA. The injunction can also restrain the unlawful withholding of your unpaid wages and overtime pay.

File a Private Lawsuit Against Your Employer For Unpaid Wages in New Mexico

An aggrieved employee has the right to file a private lawsuit against their employer for unpaid wages. Therefore, even if you have filed a complaint with the DWS, you can still file a lawsuit. 

However, you cannot simultaneously have two pending suits against the same employer. So you should drop your claim with the department before filing a private lawsuit in court.

If you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, you should speak with an experienced New Mexico unpaid wages lawyer to fight on your behalf and give you legal advice. They can file a claim at the Magistrate or Metropolitan Court. The claim can include the following:

  • Hourly wages time
  • Unpaid overtime wages
  • Unpaid bonuses and commissions
  • Unpaid vacation and PTO (paid time off)
  • Unpaid reimbursement of business expenses, etc.

If your case succeeds, your employer will be liable for unpaid wages, liquidated damages, civil penalties, court costs, and attorney’s fees. However, remember that you must act quickly to protect your rights. 

Is There a Limit on How Far Back You Can Claim Unpaid Wages in New Mexico?

New Mexico labor law limits how far back an employee can claim unpaid wages. Depending on the circumstances, you have a deadline of two years from the date of the violation to file your claim. However, the time limit is three years if your employer willfully and knowingly broke the law in failing to pay you.

Failure to file within the appropriate time can permanently bar your right to recover the money you are owed. If you’re unsure whether you have a valid claim, speak with an employment law attorney for more information.

How Do I Prove My Claim for Unpaid Wages in New Mexico?

Documentation is key. You must prove your case to win your unpaid wages claim against an unfair employer. To do this, you need supporting documents, records, and statements. Your New Mexico unpaid wages attorney can rely on the following documents to recover your compensation:

  • Your paychecks and pay stubs
  • Timecards, timesheets, or other logs of employees’ working hours
  • Bounced paychecks
  • Your employment information
  • Tax papers such as W2s
  • Collective bargaining agreement
  • Receipts and other documents if your employer withholds reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, etc.

If you don’t have these documents, do not be concerned. There is no requirement that you must have written stubs to document your right to unpaid wages. Your employer is responsible for maintaining all pay records and the database of workers. Thankfully, an experienced New Mexico unpaid wages lawyer can help you recover them from your employer through a legal process called discovery.

Furthermore, there are employers who only pay their employees in cash. It may be difficult to prove your case without pay stubs or signed receipts. So it is advisable you keep a detailed record of your employer’s practices on discharging wages. You should also document the hours you have worked for.

Let a New Mexico Unpaid Wages Lawyer Help You Enforce Your Rights!

Nonpayment of wages is a serious matter in New Mexico. If you are struggling to receive your fair wages from your employer, your struggle ends today. You have a right to recover damages.

At Herring Law Firm, we pride ourselves on giving detailed attention to our client’s needs. In addition, we have in-depth knowledge of the state and federal wage laws that can apply to your claim. Let us help you assess your case and figure out the best way to recover what you are owed. Contact our New Mexico unpaid wages lawyer today to see if we can help.

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