What is Wage Theft?
When you clock in at work, you have every reason to believe that at the conclusion of the pay period you will be paid for all of the time spent working. In some cases, there are times when workers are not paid appropriately and that could be due to wage theft.
Wage theft is an umbrella term that covers a variety of issues related to employees not being paid what they are owed.
Some of the common forms of wage theft include not being paid for all hours worked, not receiving minimum wage, not being paid overtime, not giving workers their final paychecks after leaving a job and not paying a worker at all. Employers can also misclassify their employees as independent contractors, which violates tax laws.
Workers are protected by a variety of federal, state and local laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that establishes a federal minimum wage while permitting states to establish their own minimum wage. It also provides that overtime shall be paid at a rate of one and a half time normal pay any time a full time employee exceeds 40 hours in a work week.
Though there are federal, state and local minimum wage levels, employees will be paid at the highest amount available in the area.
Even with all of these protections in place, wage theft still takes place regularly. In many cases these incidents can be attributed to human error or a simple miscalculation, but in other cases they are done intentionally to avoid paying employees. It is important to understand your rights so that you are not a victim of wage theft.
What is Travel Time?
Many employees wonder if travel time could factor into a wage theft case. Travel time is something that should be compensated and it can be overlooked or outright ignored in paychecks. The answer is that it could be part of a wage theft case, but first you must be certain that you understand the difference between travel time and a normal commute.
Each day you travel to work and then you travel from work to home. This is your commute, and it is not factored into travel time.
Travel time includes traveling as part of the job, going on errands during work hours or special assignments that take you away from your normal routine.
For example, a plumber travels from house to house throughout the day. This travel would be compensated under travel time. (In other words a plumber who is paid hourly is not paid solely for the time spent working on pipes, rather he is paid for his entire day including driving between assignments and back to the office at night)
If your boss asks you to pick up supplies for the company picnic, then this would be considered travel time and you would be paid for it. You would also be compensated if you are asked to go to a meeting at the regional office in the morning and that trip is 100 miles beyond your normal commute.
These would all be examples of travel time, and you should receive compensation for them.
What To Do If You Are Not Being Paid For Travel Time
The most important thing to do if you work in a position that involves travel time is to keep track of everything. Keep a notebook that tracks your mileage, the duration of your commute and the places you traveled throughout the day.
In some cases it could be a temporary situation; perhaps you are traveling to a temporary office location while your office is being remodeled, and that means added travel time. If your job involves multiple trips throughout the day, then you need to keep track of every destination and the time it took to get there.
That way you have a record to compare to your paychecks should there be a discrepancy with your pay.
If your employer disputes your right to compensation for travel time, or if you discover that the calculation for your travel time does not add up and the company tries to tell you that there is no problem, then you might consider consulting an employment law attorney.
Speaking with an attorney can be an invaluable resource because as an expert, the attorney can confirm whether or not you are being denied your travel time compensation. You could be eligible to file a wage theft claim with the Department of Labor, in which case your employment law attorney can guide you through the process.
Most employment law attorneys will take a case on a contingency basis, which means that no fees will be required up front and you will only be required to pay if you file a claim and win your case. Working with an attorney will not guarantee that you will win your case but it greatly increases your chances for success.