Every year, employers in Ohio and across the United States steal billions of dollars from their employees.
If employees were to steal that much from their employers, they would be facing lengthy prison sentences. But when employers illegally short-change their employees, they often face little accountability.
That's the reality of wage theft in America. According to estimates, wage law violations add up to tens of billions of dollars every year. Those dollars come disproportionately out of the paychecks of low-income workers who are struggling to make ends meet. And only a tiny fraction of those dollars are ever recovered.
This is why we do what we do here at Nilges Draher LLC. Our law firm is dedicated to helping employees recover the wages they deserve for every hour worked. The only way to put a stop to wage theft is to hold employers accountable.
What is wage theft?
Wage theft is an umbrella term for violations of wage and hour laws that result in employers not paying the proper wages due. Any violation that results in paying an employee less than what is legally required is an act of wage theft. Examples of wage theft include:
- Minimum wage violations (i.e., not paying at least the legal minimum wage for all hours worked) — this type of wage theft alone costs workers about $15 billion annually.
- Overtime violations (e.g., not paying time and a half for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek, or not calculating the overtime rate correctly for employees who earn commissions and bonuses).
- Unlawful rounding and pay to shift practices.
- Not paying employees for travel time that is part of their job duties.
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime and benefits.
- Misclassifying employees as exempt to avoid paying overtime.
- Tipped minimum wage violations, such as confiscating tips or paying the tipped minimum wage for non-tipped work.
- Unpaid break violations (e.g., requiring employees to clock out for short rest breaks, or not giving 30 uninterrupted minutes for an unpaid break).
Some types of wage theft are blatant, but many are subtle. That's why it's important for employees to know the warning signs and understand their legal rights.
Warning signs that you may be a victim of wage theft
- Your employer asks you to work off the clock without additional pay. This may include working through unpaid breaks or performing additional work before or after your shift.
- You are required to put on and take off special gear that is required for your job (such as hair nets and gloves) before and after your shifts, but you are not paid for that time.
- You have to complete a 1099 rather than a W-2, but your employer still treats you as an employee rather than a contractor.
- Your employer tells you that you can't get overtime because you are a "manager," but you spend most of your work day performing regular work tasks and don't have hiring, firing, or evaluation power.
- You notice errors in your paycheck, such as your pay not matching the number of hours you actually worked, and they are not corrected promptly.
- You do not promptly receive your final paycheck after leaving your job.
What to do if you suspect wage theft
First, document everything. Don't rely on your employer's records; keep track of your own hours worked, your paychecks, and any bonuses, commissions, or other income. Keep track of your job duties as well. If your employer says you are exempt, how much time do you actually spend performing management tasks as opposed to ordinary work tasks? If you are a tipped worker, how much time do you spend performing tipped versus non-tipped work?
Remember, under federal law, you have the right to discuss your salary and benefits with your coworkers (as long as you are not a management employee). Odds are good that if your employer is taking money out of your paycheck, it's part of a larger pattern.
Finally, talk to an experienced wage and hour attorney as soon as possible. Talking to a lawyer isn't a commitment to file a lawsuit against your employer; it's a way to find out what your rights and options may be, fully confidential and with no obligation. Take our wage theft quiz, or contact us online today to schedule your free case evaluation with Nilges Draher LLC.