Non-Payment or Underpayment of Wages Is A Problem For Low Wage
Employees are often reluctant to report or confront their employer
about problems in the workplace. This can be especially true of blue collar or
low-wage employees who often live paycheck to paycheck.
Unfortunately, this reluctance can lead to abuses by unscrupulous
managers or employers. One of the most common complaints of such employees is
that they were shorted on their hours, and therefore did not get paid for all
the hours they worked. Another way that employers sometimes employ this
practice is by not providing employees with a paystub, which leaves them with
no way to even check if they have been paid for all the hours worked, or if the
hourly wage they are actually being paid is the same wage they were promised.
Arizona Law Protects Workers Who Report Non-Payment or Underpayment
Fortunately, the law offers workers some protection against such
abuses. Specifically, Arizonas Employment Protection Act states, in relevant
public policy of this state is that [a]n employee has a claim against an
employer for termination of employment [if] [t]he employer has terminated the
employment relationship of an employee in retaliation for [t]he disclosure by
the employee that the employer has violated, is violating or will violate the
statutes of this state. (Ellipses omitted).
A.R.S. § 23-1501(A)(3)(c)(ii).
the confusing wording, the intent of the statute is clearthe Act prohibits
retaliation for pointing out illegal activity by an employer. Importantly,
retaliation against employees is prohibited in several other contexts as well.
For example, the Act also prohibits retaliation if an employee refuses to break
the law or if the employee makes a workers compensation claim [Id., §§
(A)(3)(c)(i) & (iii)].
Reporting Illegal Activity Is A Protected Activity
By placing the reporting of illegal activity within the bounds of
the states public policy, the legislature has provided the background and
context necessary for the Courts to find that such reporting is a protected
activity. See Hernandez v. Spacelabs
Medical, Inc., 343 F.3d 1107, 1113 (9th Cir.2003)(finding that an employee
can succeed in a claim for retaliation by showing that (1) he was engaged in a
protected activity; (2) that he suffered an adverse employment action; and (3)
that there is a causal link between the two). In other words, when an
employee does something that is covered by the law, such as reporting
underpayment of wages, it is illegal for the employer to fire them because of
In the case of asking about or reporting unpaid or underpaid wages,
or asking about the failure to provide a paystub, this is protected activity
because the employers failure to do so violates Arizona law. Among other
things, the law requires that [e]ach employer . . . on each of the regular
paydays, pay to the employees all wages due the employees up to such date. A.R.S.
An Employee May Seek Compensation for Wrongful Termination If He Is
Fired for Reporting Non-Payment of Wages
For an employee who is wondering whether to ask their employer about
discrepancies in their paycheck over the hours worked, the hourly wage earned,
or the lack of providing a paystub so that the employee can check these, they
are protected by the law. That does not mean that an unscrupulous employer wont
fire him over it, but it does mean that if the employee will have the right to
seek compensation for wrongful termination if that happens.
Rex A. Christensen
practices employment discrimination law in Gilbert, Arizona.
He can be reached at
article does not constitute, and should not be considered, legal advice, and
you should consult with an attorney regarding your own specific legal matters.
The existence of this article or your reading of it does not create an
attorney-client relationship. Neither the Christensen Law Firm nor any of its
attorneys may represent you without first establishing that doing so will not
create a conflict of interest.
Rex A. Christensen is licensed to practice law in Arizona only.