According to the Economic Policy Institute, employers steal billions of dollars from their employees’ paychecks each year. All too often, wage theft goes virtually unnoticed for a long time before you spot it. By the time you realize the challenges associated with your situation, you may wonder if you can do anything to decrease that burden or prevent future problems. What can you do?
A wage theft lawyer can help you understand your rights and, in many cases, recover the wages you deserve. If you have suffered wage theft, contact Villaume & Schiek to learn more.
How Wage Theft Occurs
Wage theft can occur in a variety of scenarios.
Nonpayment of Overtime
You worked more hours than your contractually-obligated 40, but your employer failed to provide the compensation you deserved for those hours—despite the fact that you get paid on an hourly basis. In Minnesota, employees who work more than 48 hours per week should receive overtime pay equaling at least 1.5 times the employee’s usual rate for those excess hours. Unfortunately, some employers will try to skirt those laws or even try to convince employees not to report them, which can prevent employees from receiving the compensation they really deserve for hours worked.
Withholding an Employee’s Final Paycheck
After you give notice, work that notice, and leave your job, you must return to pick up your final paycheck. Your employer may have specific policies related to that final paycheck, including whether it will come at the end of the next pay period as usual. Sometimes, however, employers may try to withhold employees’ paychecks, especially if the employee gets fired or leaves under negative conditions.
Not Paying for All the Hours an Employee Works
No matter how many hours you work in a pay period, your employer has a contractual obligation to pay you for all of your hours. In some cases, employers may try to get around this by having employees work through their breaks despite clocking out, or insisting that employees clock out at a certain time, even if they still have work left to complete. Other times, employers may blatantly issue partial paychecks, rather than paying the full amount an employee deserves on each check.
Paying Under Minimum Wage
Employers must offer all their employees, regardless of age, at least minimum wage. While minimum wage for servers and other tipped individuals may be less than the minimum wage for employees who work for a regular wage and do not receive tips, employers must still make up an employee’s wages if the employee does not make enough in tips to cover a living wage. Employers may try to skirt these regulations by calculating tips based on a percentage of the tables a server sits or other factors, which may result in an unfair wage that does not equal minimum wage.
Failure to Issue the Agreed-Upon Wage
You and your employer agreed to specific terms when you hired on, including the hourly wage you could expect. Unfortunately, your employer has failed to uphold his end of the bargain. Instead of paying you at the wage you agreed to when you were hired, your employer may be paying you at a much lower rate. Sometimes, employers will try to gradually cut paychecks over time, or to simply issue a paycheck without a breakdown of hours worked plus hourly wage.
Failing to Issue Payment at All
When you work, you get paid. Most often, employee and employer will agree on a contractual wage before the employee comes to work. The employer must then issue payment based on that scale. Unfortunately, some employers will try to avoid paying their employees at all. They may make excuses or simply fail to issue payment on time. Sometimes, unethical employers will close their doors without ever issuing appropriate payment to their employees.
Wage theft can occur in any industry, to anyone. While minorities and people working in industries like the retail industry or agricultural industry are more likely to report wage theft, any employer can attempt wage theft in an effort to reduce its financial liability, save money, or simply fail to provide for its employees.
What Can You Do About Wage Theft?
If you have suffered wage theft, do not do it in silence. First and foremost, contact an attorney about that wage theft. You may need to document:
The wage you and your employer agreed on.
Do you have a contract that shows how much you should be making each paycheck? Your contract can help show how much you should be making and what your employer agreed to when you signed that contract.
The hours you have worked.
Some people clock in and out for each shift. Other employers have their own methods of accounting for your hours: having you invoice and submit them, for example. However, you keep track of your hours, make sure you keep track of them on your own so you can compare them to your employer’s records.
The paychecks you have received, if applicable.
Have you received a paycheck that fails to reflect the hours you really worked or the wage you should have received? Keep copies of those paychecks so you can use them as part of the evidence against your employer later.
Instructions you have received that require you to work unpaid.
Did you receive an email or text telling you that you must clock out at a certain time, even if you need to finish work responsibilities? Do you have documentation of your employer requiring you to work through a break? An attorney can help use that evidence to put together an effective claim against your employer.
If you have faced wage theft, you do not have to suffer in silence. An experienced employment attorney like Villaume & Schiek can help you pursue compensation from your employer and make sure that your rights are met–including your right to compensation for the work you have performed. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding the wage theft you suffered.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.