Every situation that involves unpaid wages also involves a ticking clock. That is, there are statutes of limitations, i.e. deadlines, that apply to your unpaid wages.
Many wage laws have a two (2)- year deadline, and that deadline likely only applies to a period before the complaint-filing date. For example, Wisconsin wage law has a two-year deadline, and if a Wisconsin State wage complaint were filed in court on April 26, 2011, the worker could only seek unpaid wages for the two-year block dating back to April 26, 2009. With each day that passes, in this example, a day’s worth of potentially recoverable unpaid wages is lost.
Please note that several laws, with several different deadlines, could apply to one situation of unpaid wages. I have seen situations where over five (5) potential legal claims existed for one worker with unpaid wages. Further, some laws (if you are fortunate enough they apply to you) provide for longer deadlines, ranging from three (3) to six (6) year deadlines, and in rare instances longer periods.
In sum, there can be multiple different laws, and multiple different deadlines, that can apply to one situation of unpaid wages.
Because such deadlines exist, if you have unpaid wages you should act promptly to (1) evaluate potential legal claims; (2) determine the potential claims’ merits and deadlines; and (3) if there are potential claims you feel are worth pursuing, take legal action (negotiate with the employer and/or file a legal complaint).