Unfortunately, wage theft is rife across many industries in the United States. Health care workers do a very important job, but in many cases are vulnerable to wage theft. Wage theft is defined as the deliberate underpayment of wages, or even the deliberate failure to pay any wages at all.
Fortunately, there are both state and federal labor laws that prohibit wage theft and allow employees who are the victims of wage theft to complain about their situation. In many cases, employers may be forced to pay correct wages and even fines if they fail to comply.
How Does Wage Theft Occur in the Healthcare Industry?
There are many forms of wage theft in the healthcare industry. The most common example of wage theft is a failure to pay the minimum wage. There is both a federal minimum wage and a state minimum wage for most workers, with a few exceptions.
All health care workers should be covered by minimum wage rules established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or their state’s own minimum wage established by the Department of Labor, or equivalent agency. In most states, the state minimum is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
In some cases, the difference may be quite significant. In other states, the state minimum could be lower or just the same as the federal minimum wage. In all cases, wage theft occurs if the higher of the two minimum wage levels is not paid.
Overtime pay is the next most common example of wage theft in the healthcare industry. The FLSA sets out the rule about overtime pay. Any work done over 40 hours in any 7day period should be paid at one and a half times the normal rate. Overtime work is a common expectation in the health care industry when it is usual to work at all times of the day and night and at weekends.
Preventing Wage Theft When Working in the Healthcare Industry
You should be pro-active about the wages you receive when working in the health care industry, especially if you are working for an employer with a history of wage theft or deliberate underpayment of wages. Make sure you have a copy of any employment contract you have signed and have read the conditions of employment in it.
Make sure that you keep a written record of all hours you have worked as well as all your pay stubs and deductions that have been made from your regular wages. If you are asked to do overtime, make sure that you have been paid for it.
What to Do If You Experienced Wage Theft in the Healthcare Industry
If you have experienced possible wage theft as a healthcare worker, you should first take it up with your employer, or the HR department if it is a large employer. Take pay stubs and any other evidence when you go and see the person concerned.
It may be that the underpayment was not deliberate and just an administrative error. If you have no success, you should then take it up with the state Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor or equivalent state body.
In many cases, there will be a complaint form you will need to fill in. You should submit with the form as much evidence that wage theft has taken place as possible including information about your contact with your employer about underpayment.
If you find that attempts to rectify the wage theft are unsuccessful, then you may have the option of filing a lawsuit against your employer with the help of an experienced employment law attorney. A successful lawsuit may ensure that your employer pays any unpaid wages, together with a fine, court costs and your attorney’s legal fees.
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