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Spotting Wage Theft: Know your Rights

You should consider yourself lucky if you have never heard of wage theft as it affects millions of workers, adding up to about $50 billion. It is hard to get a clear understanding of the true scope of the issue because many instances go unreported. This crime often goes unnoticed by employees but the greed of many employers adds up and has a major impact. It is important for all workers to be informed about what wage theft is, how to identify it, and the steps to take if you are a victim.

What is Wage Theft?

The Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA) and each state have their own rules, regulations, and laws that employers must abide by. Wage theft is when an employer fails to pay an employee the proper wages they are owed, breaking employment laws and regulations set by states and the FSLA. There are certain jobs, people, and professions that are more at risk for wage theft such as restaurant employees, nurses, and immigrants.

What Are Common Forms of Wage Theft?

Wage theft can be committed many different ways. Some of the most common forms are:

  • Unpaid minimum wage: Failing to pay employees the states minimum wage.
  • Unpaid overtime: Not paying employees the correct rate for overtime work.
  • Unpaid tips: Common for restaurant workers, who rely on tips. They are paid the tipped minimum wage while not receiving correct tip compensation.
  • Unpaid meal or rest breaks: Employees must clock out for an uninterrupted 30 minute break. If an employer interrupts your break by making you perform work duties or makes you clock out for breaks that are 20 minutes or less they are committing wage theft.
  • Misclassification of employees: Misclassifying workers as private contractors or as exempt to avoid paying overtime.
  • Contract violations: Any contract breach is a wage theft crime.
  • Retaliation: Retaliating against employees who speak up about unlawful practices.
  • Unpaid travel time: Not paying for travel time that is part of the job. For example, traveling out of state for a conference.

Ways to Protect Yourself from Wage Theft

There are a few ways employees can protect themselves against this crime. First, start by keeping track of all hours you worked so you can verify you are paid the right amount. Also, document any time you are interrupted by work tasks during your break. If your employer ever tells you that you don’t get overtime, look into your job role and determine if you are exempt. Additionally, check your paychecks to make sure you are being paid the correct rate. If you feel like you are being underpaid due to not following wage laws, you have the right to discuss the issue with other coworkers who are not management. You also have the right to consult a wage theft attorney. This type of lawyer can help you determine if your employer’s actions are illegal and guide you through the proper steps to take to get just compensation.

Understanding Your Rights To Fair Pay

Every employee has the right to be paid fairly. Employers who think it is okay to deceive their employees and pay them less must be held accountable. Wage theft can take many forms, so it is important to be educated on how to recognize signs of this crime and know how to protect yourself. The best way to advocate for yourself in a wage theft situation is to hire an experienced wage theft attorney who can recover the pay you are owed and more

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