Wage Theft: How Your Employer Is Stealing From You And What To Do About It
Employers want money and so do employees so when employers alter an employee’s payment plan illegally, it could be termed wage theft. Employers steal wages from their employees in many creative ways. Since every state differs in how employers should report pay to their employees, sometimes employees might not even recognize the problem of wage theft.
Recognizing wage theft begins with understanding your employee rights and the corresponding remedies. In the event of wage theft, the best step may be to file a complaint. Contact a lawyer if you think your employer is stealing your wages from you.
The loss of wages through the denial of employee benefits or rightful pay can be debilitating to a household. Catching wage theft can be difficult. Below is the list of known wage theft types.
- Minimum wage violations
- Employee misclassification
- Failure to pay overtime
- Working off the clock
- Illegal deductions
- Not being paid at all
Studies reveal that wage theft causes many thousands of families to fall below the poverty line, stealing anywhere from $9 to $50 billion from employees every year. Obviously, that’s a big difference. But, the numbers fluctuate. The fact is that wage theft is still on-going and problematic for many workers in the United States.
One way that employees keep track of their income is through direct deposit. Although the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide a pay stub for every paycheck, it does obligate employers to keep record of hours worked and wages paid to employees. Meanwhile, state law often has its own set of requirements for employee pay.
Types of State Requirements for Employee Pay
- Access states
- No requirement states
Pennsylvania is an access state, meaning that the state requires employers to provide employees with their payment information. This pay stub doesn’t need to be in writing, and many employers give their employees access to electronic pay stubs. While most states are access states, not all are.
No Requirement States
A no requirement state is exactly what it sounds like: the state does not force employers to provide an employee any details on their pay. Of course, an employer can choose to supply employees with pay stubs.
States that are labeled as access/print must give employees pay stubs that are written or printed. Some states opt to offer a printable electronic pay stub. But they aren’t required to supply the pay stubs to the employees along with the check or in another medium.
Opt-Out of Electronic Delivery
Some states have the flexibility to choose their own method of delivery. If an employer chooses a certain delivery style, such as updating to electronic delivery, the employee is given the right to opt out and request print pay stubs.
Opt-In to Electronic Delivery
This option requires that employees choose to opt-in to electronic delivery. An employer cannot implement the delivery method for their entire business without consent.
How To Check Pay Stub Accuracy
Checking the accuracy of your paycheck requires analyzing your paperwork and asking certain questions. Some situations of wage theft might be immediately noticeable while others might take more time. At any time you realize that wage theft has occurred, reach out to a lawyer about your employee rights.
Are Your Work Hours Correct?
The government demands that employers pay for ALL hours worked. This could include prep, cleanup, and putting on protective gear. Some jobs include payment for time traveling between job sites.
Is Your Hourly Wage Right?
If you were promised a certain wage, make sure that’s what you are getting paid. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, you should be receiving at least the minimum wage.
Are You Receiving Overtime Wages?
Federal law requires employers to pay employees overtime wages for hours worked over the 40 hours in a 7-day workweek. Overtime is time and a half of your regular rate of pay. If your hourly wage is $10, then your overtime wage is $15/per hour.
What Deductions Are On Your Pay Stub?
Some deductions are legitimate such as taxes. But an employer who deducts charges for job equipment and training that places your final hourly pay below minimum wage is acting outside of the law.
- Federal, State, and Local income taxes
- Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes
What To Do About A Wrong Paycheck?
1. Report a wrong paycheck immediately.
Take the perspective of the wrong payment being an honest mistake and request a correction. Your boss or HR department should include the unpaid wages in your next check. If they get to you before the end of the next payment period, that’s even better.
2. Keep a record.
Don’t expect your employer to keep an accurate record, even if they are required by law to do so. If you suspect that wage theft is occurring, keep track of your hours worked. Factor in prep, cleanup, travel between job sites, breaks less than 20 minutes, and the promised rate of pay. Record your overtime hours as well.
Bonus point: Ask your boss or co-worker to initial your work hours.
3. Compare notes with your coworkers.
Are you the only one who suspects that you aren’t being fairly paid for your work? If you are consistently underpaid, it’s possible that others are also being underpaid. By working together, you might receive more attention from your boss and better legal representation.
4. Check your employee handbook.
Based on the information on unpaid wages in the handbook, speak to the right individual, whether HR or your boss. Your request to be paid your rightful wages is not a ridiculous request. It’s simply asking your employer to abide by the law.
5. File a complaint.
6. Consult a lawyer.
Sue your employer for violating your employee rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If a lot of coworkers have the same problem of unpaid wages, you might be able to file a class action lawsuit. Speak with a lawyer to find out the legal options available to you.
If you have been asked to do something illegal at work, contact an employment lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.