This post continues my series of tips, or things to consider, for workers with unpaid wages.
Tip #3 is this: Before you complain (to your employer or to a legal authority) about unpaid wages, know your audience.
When a worker learns he or she was underpaid, it is common for such a worker to complain about the underpaid wages right away, as if by reflex.
The types of complaints take many forms.
An underpaid worker may walk up to his manager with a paystub showing underpayment, say “Hey, this isn’t right!” and wait for the manager’s reaction.
Or the worker may find a website for a State or Federal wage enforcement agency, download a legal wage complaint form, fill it out, and mail it to the agency, without talking with the employer or the agency beforehand about information and options.
The act of complaining is often a good thing.
However, before complaining (assuming you have time under legal deadlines), it is best to get educated about the complaint process(es) at issue.
Namely, a worker should learn about this: who is my audience that my potential complaint would be going to? What is their usual process and timing for handling such complaints? What is the usual result? Is this type of complaint my best option as compared to other potential options?
A worker can ask these questions, for example, in a pre-complaint phone call with the government wage agency at issue.
If you take time to educate yourself on the questions above, and get to know your audience better, you will almost certainly learn of important information — including potential options, risks and benefits– that you were not aware of before.