Wage theft occurs when employers withhold wages owed to workers. It is an unscrupulous practice that costs plenty of Americans billions of dollars every year. Despite this, employers are rarely penalized and any penalties that employers do receive amount to only a very small portion of the wages actually due the employees. In fact, according to the Department of Labor, the penalty for those employers who are found guilty of wage theft is a mere $1,000 for every violation.
To emphasize the severity of this crime, research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute showed that 2.4 million employees in the 10 largest states in the United States lost a mind-boggling $8 million to one particular form of wage theft — not paying minimum wage. In Pennsylvania and Texas, the study found that the average employee lost 30% of their annual wages to wage theft.
How do you know if you’re a victim of wage theft?
If you are concerned that your employer might not be paying your full wages, you can take a look at your past paychecks. Look closely at the hours you worked and check if your pay matches the hourly you actually worked at your agreed hourly and overtime rates. If you pay does not make sense, then you can talk to your employer first before taking further action. It is possible, but unlikely, that your employer committed an innocent error in calculating your pay and will pay you for your missing wages.
However, most employers refuse to pay you the wages you have earned. You can then recover your unpaid wages by hiring a skilled employment lawyer to help you claim your unpaid wages. This step is important as an employment lawyer can best build your case against the employer to recover all wages due you that you have earned..
So, what are some of the different ways employers fail to pay all wages due their employees? Here are some of the most common methods of wage theft:
1) Withholding overtime pay
Both blue-collar and white-collar employees are eligible to receive overtime pay for time worked over 40 hours a week, unless they are categorized as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. This means that employers must pay employees 1.5 times their regular hourly rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of forty hours per week. Employers often cheat employees by not paying any overtime or miscalculating any overtime that employers actually pay.
2) Minimum wage violations
Employers must pay employees at least the applicable minimum hourly rate for any and all work performed. This means you are entitled to the highest rate of minimum wage hourly pay, regardless if it is federal, state or in some cases, city minimum wage. An employment lawyer can confirm the minimum wage hourly rate which applies to you if you have questions.
3) Working off the clock
Employers must pay employees for all work they perform. It is illegal for employers to require employees to work off the clock. Off-the-clock work occurs when employees perform work when they are not clocked into the employer’s timekeeping system and/or cannot include the work on their timesheets. The law defines “work” broadly. For example, courts have held that employers must pay employees for the time it takes to put on required uniforms and/or gear if employees get dressed at the workplace, the time it takes to pass through metal detectors or bag checks at the end of the workday, and the time it takes to boot up and down work computers. Another way employers require employees to work off the clock is employers automatically deduct a meal period (often 30 minutes) from employees’ time entries, but the employees actually work during the 30 minutes. This illegal practice is common in health care and nursing homes. This practice is illegal. .
4) Illegal deductions
Paycheck deductions should never leave employees receiving less than the minimum wage per hour of work. Employers who take unauthorized deductions from employees’ paychecks violate the law. The wage deduction law varies between states. You should contact an employment lawyer if you have questions about your wage deductions.
5) Not getting paid
Simply put, the employer must pay you for all work you perform. Obviously, it is illegal for employers not to pay you for your work. This is a common form of wage theft.
If you are concerned that you are a victim of wage theft, then you should immediately talk to an employment lawyer. Rowdy Meeks Legal Group LLC has extensive experience in vigorously prosecuting wage theft. You can visit their website and contact them at https://www.rmlegalgroup.com/.