Wage theft is something that happens in businesses every day across all spectrums of work. It doesn’t matter if you are making minimum wage or if you are a high-level executive making six figures; wage theft happens everywhere and billions of dollars are lost on an annual basis to companies that rob employees of their rightful pay.
In some cases, wage theft boils down to human error or a simple miscalculation. When it is an honest mistake and your employer corrects it immediately, it is not a true case of wage theft.
However, if you start to notice that money is missing from multiple checks and your employer makes no attempt to correct it, then you could be dealing with wage theft.
Forms Of Wage Theft
Wage theft is an umbrella term that covers a variety of situations, but they all have one thing in common: Employees are not paid for the work they performed.
Some of the common situations include not receiving the final paycheck after leaving a job, not being paid for all hours worked, not paying minimum wage, not paying overtime and not paying an employee at all.
Minimum wage violations take place when an employee does not receive the proper pay rate, as determined by local, state and federal guidelines.
If you work in a city that has its own minimum wage laws, then you are entitled to receive whichever rate is higher, whether it is the local, state or federal minimum wage.
In states with no minimum wage requirements then the employee is entitled to receive no less than the federal minimum wage rate.
Hourly employees who work more than 40 hours per week are entitled to receive overtime pay at 1.5 times the pay rate. Employers will sometimes try to deny workers their overtime payment, but this is a violation of federal and state labor laws.
Some employers do not keep track of breaks and so employees will work through their 15 minute breaks or their lunch period.
Employees are entitled to one 10-15 minute break in the first four hours of work, they should receive a 30 minute (or one hour, depending on the company’s policies) lunch break within the first six hours of work and then one final 10-15 minute break before the conclusion of the day.
You clock out for the lunch break but remain on the clock for the smaller breaks. If your employer is not allowing these breaks, or is making you work through lunch, then this would be wage theft.
There are also instances when employers ask employees to work “off the clock” so as to avoid racking up overtime.
This is wage theft. Any time you are performing duties for your job, you should be receiving payment for that time.
As you can see, there are many forms of wage theft and these are some of the most common examples. If you think you have been the victim of wage theft, you should speak with an employment law attorney right away to determine your next steps.
What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Wage Theft
If you are a victim of wage theft then you need to file a complaint against your employer. You can either file a claim directly with the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), or you can file a private lawsuit to recover the money you are owed.
In both cases, if the claim is settled in your favor, then you will receive the money that is owed to you. With a private lawsuit, however, an attorney might be able to recover additional damages and remedies depending on your specific case.
Speak with an employment law attorney to determine whether or not you have been the victim of wage theft, and if you are a victim of wage theft then you and your attorney can decide the best course of action.
The first step will be to gather evidence to help support your claim. Make sure you have your employer’s address and phone number along with the full name of your supervisor and anyone you have talked to within the company (i.e. Payroll or Human Resources) about your concerns. Include a description of the work you do, and if possible have a copy of your hiring contract available as well.
You will also need a record of the hours your worked and past pay stubs that reflect your pay rate. Include details on what happened (if you were not paid for all hours worked, or if overtime hours are missing, etc.).
Lastly, provide information about how you are typically paid, whether it is a paycheck, direct deposit or cash.
You need to be as thorough as possible so that the WHD will be able to make a ruling in the matter.
While hiring an attorney does not guarantee that you will win your case, it can greatly increase the chances of success.
Not only that, but in the case of employment law it is the employer’s responsibility to pay for legal fees if you win your case. Having the peace of mind that you have an expert working on your team can help ease the stress of an already difficult situation.