We hear a lot about human trafficking on the news. And maybe you picture a bunch of people crammed into a van, traveling over a border, and forced to work hard labor or in prostitution. But human trafficking doesn't always look like that. Sometimes employers can get caught up in a human trafficking scheme without realizing it. Other times, employers take advantage of vulnerable people by not paying their wages or failing to pay all their due wages.
In Pennsylvania, nonpayment of wages can be a serious charge, with offenses ranging from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. But if you have a conviction for nonpayment of wages on your record, it can affect your future career prospects and your personal reputation for a long time. Fortunately, Pennsylvania believes in second chances. Now, you have two options to clean up a misdemeanor offense on your record, including automatically sealing your arrest and court records under new “Clean Slate” legislation or petitioning the court to limit public access to your records under Act 5.
Pennsylvania Statute for Nonpayment of Wages
Nonpayment of wages is included as part of Pennsylvania's human trafficking statute and is often aggressively prosecuted because of the risk to vulnerable workers. You may face charges for nonpayment of wages in Pennsylvania if you were “connected with” or engaged in human trafficking and you:
- Failed or refused to pay wages or otherwise caused financial harm to an individual in connection with labor services,
- Willfully or with intent to defraud.
Penalties for Nonpayment of Wages in Pennsylvania
The grading of a charge for nonpayment of wages in Pennsylvania will vary based on the amount of money in question and whether you violate the section more than once. It's important to note that the nonpayment of wages statute is also cumulative, stating:
A person commits a separate offense under this section for each calendar month during which the individual earned wages that the person failed to pay or was otherwise financially harmed.
The law treats every month that nonpayment continues as a separate offense, which can raise the grading to a felony.
- Nonpayment of Wages Misdemeanor Penalties Nonpayment of wages is a third-degree misdemeanor if the amount owed to the individual is under $2,000 and the nonpayment only happened in one calendar month. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. If the nonpayment happened in more than one month, it could raise the grading to a felony charge.
- Nonpayment of Wages Felony Penalties Nonpayment of wages becomes a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania if:
- The amount you owe to the individual is $2,000 or more,
- Your failure to pay “constitutes a second or subsequent violation” of the statute, or
- You falsely deny the amount due or that the debt is valid.
In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony conviction is punishable by a fine of $2,500 to $15,000 and up to seven years in prison. If the nonpayment of wages happened in more than one month or failing to pay is a second violation of the statute, it can be a third-degree felony charge.
Can You Seal Your Record for Nonpayment of Wages Through Clean Slate?
Before 2019, many Pennsylvanians who were eligible to seal their records or petition a court to limit public access to them failed to do so. In some cases, it was because they didn't realize they qualified, but in others, it was because the process was opaque and cumbersome. The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed new legislation to make record sealing more accessible. Under this “Clean Slate” law, the state will automatically seal the arrest and criminal records of those who qualify after five to ten years. Additionally, even those who don't qualify for automatic sealing may be able to petition the court to seal their records under Act 5 of this law.
You could qualify for Clean Slate's automatic sealing if:
- You have a conviction for a third-degree misdemeanor, second-degree misdemeanor, or a summary offense,
- You have a conviction for an ungraded misdemeanor punishable. By two years or less in prison, or
- The court found you guilty or dismissed your charges, resulting in no conviction for nonpayment of wages.
If you have a third-degree misdemeanor conviction for nonpayment of wages, you may be eligible for automatic sealing under Clean Slate after ten years. But you should discuss your case with an experienced Pennsylvania sealing attorney to see if you may have other options.
Sealing Your Record for Nonpayment of Wages with an Act 5 Petition
If you don't qualify for automatic Clean Slate sealing, you may still be able to petition the court to seal your records under Act 5. Act 5 sealing does not happen automatically; you will need to petition the court to seal your records. However, Act 5 applies to more people and a wider range of convictions. You could qualify to seal your record under Act 5 if:
- It's been ten years since you completed your sentence and paid your fines for nonpayment of wages,
- You have a first-degree misdemeanor or other ungraded conviction punishable by five years or less in prison,
- During the last ten years, you haven't had any arrests or convictions for crimes punishable. By more than one year in prison.
Can I Seal a Felony Conviction for Nonpayment of Wages?
If you have a third-degree felony conviction for nonpayment of wages, you won't be eligible to seal your record under either Clean Slate or Act 5. Pennsylvania limits sealing options for felony convictions. However, you should discuss your record with an experienced Pennsylvania expungement and sealing attorney to see if you have any alternative choices.
You Need an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you'd like to explore your options for cleaning up your misdemeanor or felony conviction for nonpayment of wages, you'll need a skilled Pennsylvania sealing and expungement lawyer guiding you through the process. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping Pennsylvanians through the sealing and expungement process for years, and they can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.