Wage theft takes place when an employer does not give the right wage to an employee. This could include failure to pay the set minimum wage and denying employees benefits that are entitlements and are rightfully owed to the employee.
Sometimes wage theft takes place when an employer deliberately misclassified an employee as a contractor, making deductions from pay that is quite illegal, failing to pay holiday pay or in some cases not paying any wages at all.
If you are a plumber and you believe you been denied payments you are entitled to receive you may be covered by the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which means you can complain about non-payments and seek compensation for the wage theft by your employer.
How Plumbers Experience Wage Theft
Typically, those who are the most likely victims of wage theft are workers who have arrived in the country illegally and seek work.
However, even qualified trades people are subject to wage theft as well. Typically, plumbers suffer wage theft through any of the following:
- Not being paid for travel time is common as employers try to deduct the time it takes to reach each plumbing job from the depot and between plumbing jobs;
- Not receiving overtime pay if you work for more than 40 hours per week doing plumbing repairs when you are entitled to time and a half;
- Being deducted pay for meal breaks you didn’t take;
- Rounding down hours worked such as if you work between 7.30 and 5.15 your supervisor signs you in on the log saying you worked between 8 and 5 every day.
- Paid for shift hours and not the hours worked so you should be paid for the time you start and finish your plumbing work if you start earlier and finish later;
- Docked for breaking rules such as not wearing appropriate safety gear when doing a plumbing job is not permitted also if you arrive 20 minutes late for work you should only be docked for the 20 minutes and not for 60 minutes like some employers try to do;
- Denied pay for preparation time such as loading your plumber’s truck with plumbing equipment for the day’s work or attending a meeting;
What To Do If Experiencing Wage Theft as a Plumber
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is the body that determines wage theft. If you believe while working as a plumber you were the victim of wages theft by your employer there are several things you can do.
The main one to begin with at least is to ask your employer why money hasn’t been paid when it should have been. Sometimes, miscalculating happens for a reason like a change in staff or a change in software used for calculating individual wages payments.
If no excuse is given, you can assume it is deliberate which in most cases it is. You can now file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner's Office in your local area.
When you do this you need to have the evidence that your employer has violated the law. This means providing proof that you started at a certain time when your employer had recorded a later time or you haven’t been paid for overtime when you worked the extra hours.
Sometimes there is little evidence you can provide but you may have to depend on reliable witnesses like co-workers who can vouch what time you started and finished work.
Next Steps for Filing a Wage Theft Claim
After you have filed the wage claim a notification will be sent out to you and your employer. Typically, a settlement conference will be timetabled for most wages theft claims.
At this conference, a Deputy Labor Commissioner attempts to assist you and your employer to arrive at an agreement for paying the wages claim.
If a settlement is not reached, then your claim will be heard at a hearing. Soon you will be provided with a hearing time and date.
At the hearing, your employer and yourself are required to testify under oath and you will then submit evidence regarding the claim. You will need to provide all the evidence at the hearing.
When the hearing is over you will be sent a letter with the hearing officer’s decision and the payment that the employer has to pay to you. If you don’t agree with the decision you can file an appeal with the Superior Court. This right is given to your employer as well.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney to Help With Your Claim
Trying to file a wages claim is never easy so it is always best to get advice from an employment law attorney who will guide you through the process.