Employees work hard to earn their paychecks, and they often need every cent to pay for necessary expenses like rent, utilities, insurance and groceries. When your wages are processed through automated systems, it can seem unlikely that your employer is stealing your income.
Unfortunately, employers find ways to keep billions of dollars out of their employee’s paychecks each year. This wage theft can happen when employees do not see it happen or they do not know that certain actions are actually wage theft. To help combat this, here are five common forms of wage theft:
Working off the clock
An employer needs to pay their employees for any work they do, but they may find subtle ways around it. Examples of this include telling employees that any work after the end of a shift will not be paid and asking employees to do additional work after they clocked out for the day.
Employers, including managers, who take a share or all of an employee’s tips are committing wage theft. Another form of violation includes employers who do not pay any base income to their employees and require them to rely solely on tips.
Unpaid meal breaks
Employers don’t need to pay employees for break time as long as the employee is not actually performing any work during their breaks. If your employer requires you to help out during a rush while you are on break, they need to either pay you for the whole break or pay you for the time you worked.
Employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a single week. If you worked 50 hours one week of a pay period and 30 hours the next week, you would have worked 10 hours of overtime during the first week. If your employer moved those hours to the next week and claimed that you worked 40 hours each week, and therefore didn’t pay you overtime, they would have committed wage theft.
If your job requires you to wear specific clothing, like protective clothing or safety gear, you need to be paid for the time you spend putting on and taking off that clothing or gear. This does not apply to changing in or out of regular clothing.
What can you do?
If you suspect that you are a victim of wage theft, contact an attorney immediately. They can help you review your situation and pursue compensation for your lost income while also protecting your rights.