Examples of Wage Theft

You work hard on the job and as an employee you have every right to expect to be paid fairly for the work you do. When you are hired at your job you should be told what the job expectations are, as well as your pay rate and the pay schedule. If you are not being paid for the work you have done, you might be the victim of wage theft.

Wage theft is against the law. There are federal and state protections for employees against wage theft and if you suspect that you are a victim of wage theft then you need to understand your rights and what you can do to receive the money you are owed.

Ordinary Wage Theft

Wage theft happens in workplaces across the country on a daily basis. It can happen in factories, in retail stores and even in corporate workplaces, and it doesn’t matter how much money you are paid. Employees at all levels and in all industries are susceptible to wage theft.

In general, wage theft includes any situation where an employee is not paid overtime, is not paid according to minimum wage guidelines, is not paid for the total number of hours actually worked, is not paid upon leaving a job or if the employee is not paid at all.

Overtime wage theft happens when an employee who is overtime-eligible is not paid for those hours.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employees who work a standard full-time 40-hour work week are entitled to overtime pay of one and a half times the normal pay rate after surpassing 40 hours of work.

For example, imagine that you are a full time retail employee and you are asked to work late during the holidays.

If you normally work 40 hours and you work 48 hours in a work week, then you would be entitled to 8 hours of overtime pay. If your employer does not pay you overtime for those 8 hours, then this would be a case of wage theft.

Minimum wage guidelines are set by both the state and federal government. There is a federal minimum wage as well as a state and local minimum wage.

Your employer should follow all state and local minimum wage guidelines, and if there are no state guidelines in effect then the standard federal guidelines apply.

Employers are required to pay the higher of the two minimum wages in situations where both exist.

What this means for employees is that your employer cannot set a pay rate that is below the federal, state or local guidelines. In order to understand whether you are a victim of age theft for minimum wage, you need to understand the rules in your city and state.

If your company is not subject to any state or local rules, then the employer should follow the federal minimum wage guidelines, which would be $7.25. If your employer is paying less than $7.25 then you might be the victim of wage theft.

Wage theft also occurs when an employee is not paid for the total hours worked, or if the employee is not paid at all.

Employees are entitled to accurate record keeping as well as being paid for work completed. If either of these situations happen, they constitute wage theft violations.

Digital Wage Theft

You might think that using a time clock would keep you safe from wage theft violations. Digital wage theft is actually quite common and very easy to miss unless you are paying close attention to the time clock.

Some time clocks are programmed to round you to the next quarter hour. For example, you might clock in at 8:52am but the time clock will record that as 9am, or if you clock out at 4:51pm you might be rounded to 4:45pm instead.

Over time, these little increments of time will subtract significant money from your paycheck, money that your company is keeping from you.

Similarly, time shaving is also a way that companies keep money from you, only in this case someone goes in and manually changes your time sheet to reflect fewer hours worked. In this case, you will have to demonstrate that you were in fact at work even though the time clock shows that you were clocked out. Given that someone in the company must manually change your timesheet, time shaving is an example of gross wage theft.

Some companies have systems in place so that the time clock will automatically deduct lunch breaks after a certain point, even if you didn’t clock out manually.

What this means is that you could work through your lunch period but the time clock has already deducted this time from your timesheet, and that means you’re not being paid even though you are working.

The biggest red flag for an employee using a time clock would be any time your employer asks you to work off the clock. If you are working, then you should be working on the clock at all times to prove that you are indeed at work.

In order to avoid digital wage theft, make sure you review your timesheet on a regular basis so that you know if you are being docked for meals or if the time clock is taking time away from you when you clock in or out.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

Filing a wage theft complaint with the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division can be intimidating. Even though employees are protected from retaliation when they file, it is still a very stressful process that requires a great deal of documentation and evidence to support the claim.

Hiring an employment attorney does not guarantee that you will win your claim, but working with an expert increases your chances of success while also making the process less cumbersome.

Employment lawyers know what kind of evidence is needed to support your specific claim, and they will be able to help you gather the documentation and submit it in a timely manner.

Fill out a free evaluation form to learn more about how an employment lawyer might be able to help you.

Additional Resources