Wage theft has increased at an alarming rate in the United States, with a large number of state and federal agencies stating that more employers than ever before have violated labor laws that protect workers against stolen wages.
California labor officials recently revealed the state collected more than $1 billion in stolen wages over five years running from 2010 through 2014.
The United States Department of Labor handled nearly 25,000 cases of wage theft over the same period that recovered more than $170 million in stolen wages.
If you believe you are not being paid for all of the hours that you have worked, you should review the records of the hours and wages that you have been paid.
Although the human resources department of your employer should have the records stored in a computer system, you might face the prospect of having to take steps on your own that produce the level of evidence necessary for you to get paid for wage theft.
In other words, you might have to prove wage theft without any records submitted by your employer.
Proving Wage Theft Without Records
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must keep accurate records of the hours worked, as well as the wages paid to every employee.
The problem is employers do not have to give employees pay stubs that verify the payment of legally mandated wages. Therefore, if you believe your employer has withheld wages that are rightly yours to earn, you have to come up with records that demonstrate the wage theft.
Here are the important records you should maintain to convince your employer and possibly a civil court judge that you are a victim of wage theft:
- Company or organization name
- Name of the owner and/or manager of the company or organization
- Number of hours worked
- When you worked
- Hourly or salary pay rate
The United States Department of Labor offers a Smartphone app that downloads templates for organizing wage-related records.
The federal government agency also has created a printable calendar that allows you to document when you worked, as well as how long you worked each shift.
What to Expect in a Lawsuit
The first step in recovering wages that you believe you deserve to be paid is to communicate your concern with a human resources manager. If that does not resolve the issue, you should apply the pressure of the law to receive stolen wages.
The court will review the documents you present to determine the amount you should be paid. Because your company or organization does not have any supportive records to present, the documents that you file with the court are not eligible to be disputed by the other party’s team of attorneys.
Filing a civil lawsuit to recover stolen wages can lead to several different outcomes. Your employment lawyer might be able to convince the other side to pay the alleged stolen wages.
This commonly happens during closed-door negotiating sessions. The evidence collected by your employment attorney during the initial investigation might be convincing enough to compel your employer to pay back stolen wages.
Arbitration represents a legal process that does not involve filing a lawsuit in a civil court. A neutral third party reviews the evidence submitted by both sides before making a binding decision that concerns wage theft.
Many employees that fall victim to wage theft are required to seek compensation for wage theft by participating in the binding arbitration process. If you are a victim of wage theft, read the policy written into your employee handbook that describes binding arbitration.
Filing a Lawsuit
The FLSA clearly states that you have two years after the discovery of wage theft to file a civil lawsuit. This means you should contact a state-licensed employment lawyer right after you discover wage theft.
Your attorney takes over your complaint by ensuring you present persuasive documentation during a civil lawsuit. Once again, since your employer does not have the records to validate your claim, it is the records that you submit to a civil court judge that legally matters the most.
Act with a Sense of Urgency
Acting with a sense of urgency by collecting evidence and then contacting an experienced employment lawyer is how you make a legally powerful statement in a civil court.
Evidence to collect includes any communication that proves what you earned, printed or digital documentation of pay stubs and timesheets that demonstrate when you worked.
Communications can include emails, text messages, and tape phone conversations if you live in a state that permits a one-party consent recording of phone conversations.
If you get paid through direct deposits, bank statements that show how much you got paid should convince a civil court judge to approve your request to recover stolen wages.
An employment attorney can help you present the most persuasive evidence, as well as negotiate with your employer to resolve the wage theft claim.