When you perform the duties of your job, you are entitled to being paid what you are owed in a timely manner. You are entitled to receive the wage you agreed upon with your employer when you were hired, and if you work more than your regularly scheduled work week then you should receive overtime pay.
If you are not receiving payment for the work you have done, then you might be experiencing wage theft.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft is the term used when employees are not given their wages, either in the amount owed or in a timely manner.
It includes not paying a worker minimum wage, not paying overtime that is owed, not paying for all of the hours an employee has worked and not paying an employee at all.
It also includes not providing a final paycheck to an employee who has left a job.If an employer is paying you for 32 hours when you actually work 40, that would be considered wage theft. If you work overtime and you are not paid for that overtime, that is also wage theft.
Wage theft happens to workers in all manners of jobs and industries. Union workers tend not to experience wage theft as frequently as non-union workers thanks to the protection from the unions.
It can happen to workers making a lot of money and it can happen to low-wage earners, though low wage earners, like non-union workers, tend to see more wage theft than other workers.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of wage theft, you can file a complaint against your employer to recover the amount you are owed.
U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division
The United States Department of Labor oversees all matters pertaining to employment and employee rights.
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for enforcing employment laws including minimum wage guidelines, child labor issues, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Essentially, if you have an issue with your job, the WHD is the branch of government that is there to help you.
The WHD has branch locations all over the country, and they are there to help you when you have questions about your employment no matter how big or small the issue is.
How To File a Complaint With the Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
The WHD enforces employment laws including minimum wage guidelines, child labor issues, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. So if you have a problem with your job, the WHD is the government agency that can help you. Branches of the WHD are spread throughout the states.
How to File a Claim with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division You should find a WHD office near to your home so that should be your first point of contact. Los Angeles has at least five WHD offices, while Texas has a similar number.
If your complaint is about action taken by your employer the WHD will keep your complaint confidential throughout the complaints process, and even if your employer does find out that you have filed a complaint you are protected from being fired. You may file your complaint online or by phone, so you do not have to worry about being seen at a WHD branch.
The information that you will be asked to provide includes:
- your personal information such as your name
- address and phone number
- the name of the company you work for and its owner or manager with its address and phone number
- a description of the work you did/do
- your payment information such as pay rate, your company’s pay schedule and if you were paid electronically or via a direct deposit, by check or with cash.
The WHD may ask you for further information which supports your complaint, including your records of the hours you have worked, your paychecks and anything else you may have related to your company’s payment policies.
What Information You Need To File a Complaint
When you make the decision to file your complaint, you need to make sure that you have all the information ready. The more complete your information, the easier it will be for the Wage and Hour Division to make a determination.
The information that you need to provide includes the following:
- Personal information: Your name, address and phone number
- Company information: The name of the company along with the address and phone number. You also need to provide the name of the manager(s) and owner(s).
- Job description: Include your job title and a description of the work you did/do
- Payment information: Include information about your pay rate, the company’s pay schedule and whether you were paid electronically via direct deposit, by check or with cash
The WHD might ask you for additional information to support your complaint, including records of your hours, copies of your checks and anything else related to your company’s payment policies that might be useful. Always try to provide dates and specific information to help the WHD investigate your claim.
Filing a complaint against your employer can be a frightening idea, and that fear of reprisal keeps many workers from going after the money that they are owed.
Fortunately, the WHD protects workers against retaliation. The WHD will keep your complaint confidential throughout the process, and even if your employer somehow finds out that you filed a complaint you are protected from losing your job.
You may file your complaint online or by phone, so you do not have to worry about being seen at a WHD branch.
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help
If you suspect that you have been the victim of wage theft, you might need help figuring out the next steps and an employment lawyer can help guide you through the process. Even though there are lots of resources available to workers, it can be an intimidating task to gather the information needed for the claim and to follow all of the necessary steps.
An employment lawyer will help determine whether filing a wage theft complaint makes sense for you, and he or she will help you with every step of the process while making sure you have all the information you need to file your complaint.
Fill out a free evaluation form to connect with an employment lawyer in your area.