Wage theft occurs when your employer fails to pay all of your entitlements after you have performed work in a place of employment. When you put in the hours, your paychecks should reflect your hard work.
But in your current economic situation, employers sometimes rob their employees of the wages they deserve. This takes place in a number of ways, such as not paying the minimum wage, failing to pay overtime after working 40 hours in a week, not paying for preparation time and in some cases not paying any wages at all.
If this has happened to you, it may be possible to get your employer to pay the wage theft if you file a complaint.
What You Need to Know Before You File a Wage Theft Claim
In Virginia, the minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. However, if you live in a city or county in Virginia with a higher minimum wage, you are entitled to that higher amount.
Most employees are entitled to overtime for any hours worked over 40 in a week. The rate for overtime is one and a half times the hourly rate. Virginia does not require employers to provide employees with meal or rest breaks.
One exception is for employees under 16, who must be provided a 30-minute meal or rest period for every five hours worked.
Also any short breaks of less than 20 minutes during the working day, and any breaks when you are required to work such as eating lunch sitting at your desk so that you can answer the phone and/or accept deliveries must be paid for.
How to File an Unpaid Wage Claim
You may select to file a wage claim with Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry by mail. Since the new law was enacted on April 12th 2020, the Department of Labor and Industry has more power to investigate an employee’s wage complaints.
The Department of Labor and Industry may ask you to join mediation with your employer and if this doesn’t work then you should go ahead and file a lawsuit against your employer to recover the wage theft owed to you.
If after you have filed your complaint the department believes other employees may have been affected it can instigate an investigation into the employers treatment of other workers. What you must remember and that is you must file your wage claim within three years of the wage theft taking place.
If you believe you have a better chance of winning your wage theft claim by suing your employer and since April 12th 2020, when the Virginia Wage Theft Law became a reality Virginia employees are allowed to sue for allegedly unpaid wages.
If you win your wage theft claim in court you will get your unpaid wages paid plus 8% pre-judgment interest. The Wage Theft Law also allows recovery of liquidated damages which is an amount which is equal to the value of the wages owed, attorney fees and court costs.
If the court discovers that your employer deliberately failed to pay the correct wages to you, the employee, the Wage Theft Law allows recovery of treble damages and a civil penalty imposed on your employer up to $1,000 per violation which is paid to the Virginia State Treasurer. It is always helpful to talk to an employment law attorney before you begin the process of filing a lawsuit.
Fill Out a Free Evaluation Form
If you think you have been subject to wage theft by your employer, you should fill out a free evaluation form.