Believe it or not, despite numerous labor laws protecting employees across the country, wage theft still occurs. Whether employers realize it or not, they can be violating labor laws when they withhold payments, whether it is shaving time from your timecard or misclassifying employees to avoid paying overtime.
Wage theft encompasses a variety of situations. This includes not being paid overtime, not being paid minimum wage according to state (and federal and local) minimum wage guidelines, not issuing a final paycheck upon leaving a job, not being paid for the total number of hours worked or not being paid at all.
Some employers may utilize timekeeping systems that round hours up upon clocking in and down when clocking out, so that employees lose 15 to 30 minutes of pay on a daily basis. That might not seem like a big deal, but that time adds up over the course of a week. Some employers also clock employees out automatically for breaks even though those breaks are not being taken, or they do not pay for expenses like travel time.
Unfortunately, wage theft is a growing problem across the country, and it can happen in big corporations or small businesses. The important thing to know is that employees are protected. Not only does the Fair Labor Standards Act protect employees against wage theft, but so too do labor laws in Pennsylvania.
The first step is to understand wage theft and Pennsylvania’s laws against it. You might consider speaking with an employment attorney for advice and guidance through the process of filing a claim.
What You Need to Know Before You File a Wage Theft Claim
Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and meal and rest periods are not required. This means that an employer must pay employees no less than $7.25, and while there are no required rest or meal periods employers cannot clock out their employees for taking breaks if they are not being utilized.
Prior to filing a claim, make sure that you review your hiring paperwork to make sure that there were no surprise clauses, like withholding your final paycheck until you turn in your uniform, that you agreed to upon being hired. If something like that was in your contract, then you must abide by the terms. However, your employer cannot have you agree to things like not being paid minimum wage or overtime in your contract.
How to Report Wage Theft
There is a time limit on filing a wage theft complaint. You must file your claim within three years of when your wages are due. This is important because you may have only recently discovered a problem with your pay, either because you just noticed it or were just made aware of it, but in reality it has been happening for a long time. That means you must act quickly to recover lost wages before you run out of time to file a claim.
Once you file a claim with Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry, your employer is required to pay you within 60 dates from the filing date. If that does not happen, you may be entitled to receive an additional 25% of the value of the wages owed you.
You can file your claim online on the Department of Labor and Industry website. There, you will find a number of resources about wage theft and your rights. You can also file in person at a branch office if you are not able to use the online form.
The most important aspect of a wage theft claim is evidence. You must be able to provide evidence of wage theft, and the stronger your evidence the stronger your case. With wage theft, the best evidence you can provide is copies of your timecards, your pay stubs and your paychecks, all of which should be able to demonstrate that you have been a victim of wage theft.
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Filing a wage theft claim against your employer can be a stressful process. You may consider speaking with an employment attorney for advice and guidance. An employment attorney is an expert in wage theft law and will be able to guide you through the process of collecting evidence and building a strong case.
The benefit of working with an employment lawyer is that many work on a contingency basis, so they do not require payment upfront. You only pay if you win your claim, so there is very little risk in consulting with an expert. Some do require payment upfront, so discuss payment with your lawyer.
To get connected with an employment law attorney in your area, fill out a Free Case Evaluation form today.