Wage theft can happen in any industry. The laws and regulations related to wage and hour practices differ by jurisdiction, so employees should consult with an experienced employment attorney. Although employers in various industries are involved in wage theft, retail, food services, hospitality, construction, mortgage, and home healthcare are more commonly known for unlawful wage practices.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay employees the wages legally owed to them based on federal and state wage laws, and employment agreements.
Wage theft is a severe violation of wage laws and can have significant financial consequences for employees, affecting their ability to make ends meet. It is one of the most common types of wage payment violations.
Common Wage Violations Explained
Minimum Wage Violations
- Paying employees less than the legally mandated minimum wage for their jurisdiction.
- Deducting amounts from an employee’s paycheck that bring his or her hourly wage below the minimum wage.
Overtime Pay Violations
- Failing to pay eligible employees the required overtime rate (typically one and a half times their regular rate of pay) for hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.
- Requiring employees to perform job-related tasks before or after their designated shift without compensation.
- Automatically deducting meal and/or break time, even when employees continue working during their meal periods and breaks.
- Employers may incorrectly classify employees as independent contractors to avoid providing overtime pay, minimum wage, and employee benefits.
- Employers may misclassify non-exempt employees as exempt, denying them overtime pay.
- It is illegal for employers to take a portion of employees’ tips or fail to distribute tips to eligible staff members, such as servers and bartenders, as required by law.
- Employers can’t use tips to cover credit card processing fees.
Failure to Provide Required Breaks and Meal Periods
- Employers may deny employees their legally mandated rest breaks and meal periods or require them to work during these periods without compensation.
- It is unlawful for employers to automatically deduct time for breaks or meal periods if employees are not allowed to fully take them.
- Making unauthorized deductions from employees’ paychecks for items like uniforms, equipment, or cash register shortages that reduce their earnings below the minimum wage or overtime thresholds is unlawful.
- Deducting wages as a form of punishment for mistakes or performance issues can be illegal depending upon in which state you live.
Industries Often Involved in Wage Theft
Sometimes, wage discrepancies are due to an honest mistake, but unfortunately, it is all too common in some industries.
Food Services and Hospitality
Employees working in retail may experience unpaid overtime or be asked to work “off the clock.” Employers may even fail to provide proper meal and rest breaks without appropriate compensation.
Agricultural workers, including farm and seasonal workers, are likelier to experience minimum wage violations and uncompensated overtime.
Construction workers are often misclassified as independent contractors by their employers when they are employees with protected rights. The construction industry is also known for underpaying overtime and failing to pay prevailing wages on public projects.
Home healthcare workers are sometimes misclassified as “exempt” employees so employers can avoid paying overtime. Home healthcare is demanding, yet many employers fail to provide meal and rest breaks, or the necessary compensation if an employee works through those breaks.
Janitorial and Cleaning Services
Unfortunately, janitorial and cleaning employees are often expected to do “off-the-clock” work. Employers also fail to pay for travel time between job sites and are often responsible for minimum wage violations.
Mortgage Loan Officers
Many banks and other mortgage employers illegally pay mortgage loan officers a “salary” or on a commission only basis. Both of these are generally illegal.
Rowdy Meeks Legal Group LLC: Nationally Recognized Employment Attorneys
As an employee with protected rights, you deserve to get the money you are legally entitled to. When your employer commits wage violations, it can affect your workplace environment, financial security, and peace of mind.
You should contact Rowdy Meeks Legal Group LLC if you believe you have been the victim of wage theft.