Every worker deserves to be paid a full and fair wage. Unfortunately, workers across New York do not always receive their full and fair wage due to wage theft.
Wage theft can occur in several ways. Some are blatant; others are more complicated to unravel. As an employee, it is crucial to know what wage theft might entail and what options you have if you believe you are the victim of this misconduct.
How wage theft occurs
There are several ways employers may wrongfully withhold wages from workers. Some of the most common tactics involve:
- Paying employees less than minimum wage
- Failing to pay overtime wages at a rate of 1.5 times the regular hourly rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a week
- Requiring workers to work before clocking in or after clocking out
- Misclassifying workers
- Taking an employee’s tips
- Making unauthorized deductions from paychecks
- Withholding reimbursements
Often, cases involving these actions are confusing for workers. Employers may try to cover their tracks by falsifying hourly records or misinforming workers about their rights. Employers might also miscalculate tips and overtime, making it difficult for employees to know that they are not taking home their full wages.
Protecting yourself against wage theft
Wage theft is illegal, and it has very real consequences for employees. To protect yourself as an employee, keeping documentation is crucial. For example, you will want to retain:
- Offer letters, employment agreements, or wage statements stating your wages
- Emails or voicemails from an employer that discuss wages or hours
- Records of instances you worked off the clock
- An accounting of your hours worked (both official and unofficial, if you suspect the clocking systems are not accurately tracking your time)
When workers have maintained this information and documentation, it can be easier for themselves and others to spot discrepancies.
If you believe your employer is stealing wages from you, you can hold your employer accountable for this misconduct by discussing your legal options and financial remedies with an attorney.