Wage theft is more common than you may think. According to a 2017 study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, in the country’s 10 most populous states 2.4 million workers had more than $8 billion in wages stolen. That total adds up to about half as much as all other property theft combined. Nationwide, that total is estimated to be more than $15 billion every year.
There are many ways in which wage theft can take place. You could be shorted out of the hours that you worked, you may be classified improperly so you are not paid overtime, your employer may fail to pay you overtime, you may not be paid minimum wage or your agreed wage, or your employer could fail to pay you what you earned, your paychecks may bounce, or you may not be paid on time.
You should be attentive to your earnings and make sure that your paycheck is accurate each pay period. If you notice a problem, it should be reported right away so corrective measures can be taken.
Different Forms Of Wage Theft
As previously mentioned, there are many different forms of wage theft. Unfortunately, many employees don’t notice wage theft when it first happens, so they delay filing a claim. You do have a limited time to pursue a claim. According to the federal laws, you only have 180 days from the date of the incident to file a claim to recoup your losses, which will include lost wages, lost benefits, pain and suffering, and so forth.
Here are a few of the more common examples of wage theft:
- Non-payment of overtime
- Not receiving your last paycheck from your employer
- Not being paid for all hours worked
- Not being paid at all for your time worked
- Not being paid minimum wage
- Not being paid agreed wages
- Employee being improperly classified to avoid overtime
- Paycheck not being given on time
If any of these have happened to you, then you are most likely the victim of wage theft. You do have rights and there are laws protecting you so you can pursue your claim against your employer and recover those lost wages and other damages. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can also penalize your employer for breaking the law. You will need to research the state and federal laws that apply to wage theft, so you can make sure your claim is filed on time and properly.
How To Prove Wage Theft
You will need to maintain evidence and documentation to support your claim. You should keep track of your pay and your hours worked. You should always check your paystub and paycheck to ensure that you have been paid for all the time that you worked and that you were paid properly. Here are some of the different kinds of evidence that might be helpful to your wage theft claim against your employer:
- A log of dates and hours worked
- Timecards or time sheets
- Detailed listing of breaks
- Employee handbook
- Employment contract
- Anything that indicates your agreed regular wage
Your employment contract can be used as evidence to explain your employee classification, the pay period, and even wages. If your job is somewhat informal, take photos of the job site. If you are a contractor who is supposed to be paid by the hour, or by the project, you should take photos of the work site and include supporting evidence and documentation that shows the time you worked and the project status.
Consult With An Employment Law Attorney
If you have been the victim of wage theft, you should enlist the help of an employment law attorney. With the help of a lawyer, you are much more likely to get your claim underway in a timely manner and have all the supporting evidence and documentation that is needed to ensure your claim is on the right track and will be effective.
When you talk with an attorney, go over when and how they expect payment. Some employment lawyers work on a contingency basis while others charge a retainer or an hourly fee. You can benefit from the knowledge of an employment law attorney who is familiar with the state and federal laws that apply to your situation. To make sure your claim is filed before the times run out, complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details with your wage theft case with an attorney in your area.