National Consumers League

Worker Rights

Worker Rights

Wage Theft: Six common methods

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Workers of all types, in all industries can fall victim to wage theft. Learn some of the most common ways employers are unlawfully keeping employees from the wages they deserve.

 

 

 

Overtime

Blue-collar and white-collar workers are entitled to overtime pay for time worked after hitting 40 hours a week, unless classified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Among the questions to ask to learn if wage theft is occurring:

  • Who is exempt and who is not?
  • Breakdown by occupation

Employee misclassification

As an employee of a company, one has rights and protections guaranteed by law – workers compensation, payroll taxes paid by one’s employer and unemployment insurance,  but as an independent contractor a worker does not get the benefit of these rights and protections; independent contractors are also responsible for paying their ‘payroll taxes’ to the IRS. Among the questions to ask to learn if wage theft is occurring:

  • Employee label vs. independent contractor label
  • Cheats workers, governments and communities

Minimum wage violations

Between federal, state and, in some cases, city minimum wage, one is entitled to the highest rate of pay. Among the questions to ask to learn if wage theft is occurring:

  • What’s the minimum wage for your state?
  • Employers not adhering to the higher minimum wage (state vs. federal)

Working off the clock

Work starts when you enter the workplace, including the time it takes to don protective gear and ends when you leave the workplace,  including the time it takes to clean up from the day. Among the questions to ask to learn if wage theft is occurring:

  • Employees asked to work before and after set hours without additional pay
  • Employees working through break time and lunch without additional pay

Illegal deductions from pay

Deductions from paychecks should never result in the employee getting paid less than minimum wage per hour worked.  Among the questions to ask to learn if wage theft is occurring:

  • Employers take unauthorized or illegal deductions from employee pay
  • Example: Are employees being charged for  required dorm living, electricity, etc.

Not being paid at all

If one provides work for an employer then one should be paid;  however this does not always happen and is the most blatant form of wage theft. Among the questions to ask to learn if wage theft is occurring,

  • Employers not paying employees for all hours of work,  including travel time from site to site
  • Employers not paying employees for days of work
  • Employers not paying an employee’s last paycheck

For more information, or to learn whether you’ve been a victim of wage theft please contact the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division at www.wagehour.dol.gov or the Department of Labor Elaws Advisors athttp://www.dol.gov/elaws/advisors.html and/or call the toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866- 4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243). You can also contact your state department of labor or employment and/or a local workers center.

Source – U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division


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