Where Wage Theft Occurs
Wage theft occurs when an employer does not fully compensate employees for the time they have worked. Every day, minimum wage workers are cheated by their employers out of money they have earned. The most common place this happens is in the service industry with tipped employees. The service industry sees the bulk of wage theft victims usually because of cash tips that are difficult to keep track of. Undocumented workers are also victims of wage theft. These workers are the most vulnerable to wage theft because they often do not have other career options. Employees may be afraid to complain to their employers for fear of causing trouble and being disciplined or even fired.
Workers should know their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Your employer cannot fire you for asking for wages that you have earned through your own hard work. TGI Friday’s recently found out that cheating workers out of wages can have big consequences. In January, 42,000 workers were approved for a class action against their employer for wage theft.
How Wage Theft Occurs
Minimum wage requires the employer to pay $7.25 an hour. Those who work in the service industry probably know that an employer only has to pay the employee $2.13 an hour. The remaining wages are supposed to come from tips. What many do not know is that they are always required to make at least $7.25 an hour. If their tips do not make up the difference between $2.13 and $7.25, the employer must pay the worker the rest so that their wages always equal at least $7.25 an hour. Often times employers pay $2.13 an hour even if the workers tips do not make up the difference. Employers also will pay $2.13 an hour for untipped hours such as set up or clean up time when the workers have no opportunity to make tips.
Another form of wage theft is not paying workers for overtime. Employers are required to pay time and a half for every hour worked over 40 hours in a work week. If an worker makes $7.25 an hour, they must be paid $14.50 for the 41st hour of the week and any hour past that. An employer cannot require you to work “off the clock” and not compensate you.
The overtime requirement only applies to hourly employees. Salaried employees are exempt from the overtime rule along with other types of employees. A list of types of employees who are exempt from this rule can be found here.
What Is Your Remedy For Wage Theft?
The first thing you need to do if you think you are the victim of wage theft is to keep track of how much you are paid per hour. Make sure to keep track of how much you make in tips and see if your wages equal $7.25 an hour. If you have not been paid at least minimum wage, you can ask your employer to make up the difference. You will likely need written documentation to prove this. If your employer refuses to pay, you can file a claim against them under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Not only can you recover your lost wages from wage theft, but you will receive DOUBLE DAMAGES. Double damages means that your recovery will be double the amount of what you are owed. If you have lost $200 due to wage theft, you will recover $400. Your attorney will be paid through attorney’s fees, so the attorney will not receive any part of your recovery, it will all go to you.
If you think you have been the victim of wage theft, call Lambert Zainey Today for a free case evaluation.