If you have ever been shortchanged on your paycheck, you may have been a victim of wage theft. According to the Economic Policy Institute report, wage theft costs workers billions of dollars each year. In fact, this issue is so common that it is estimated to affect 1 in 4 workers. Our employment law team discusses what wage theft is, how to spot it, the laws that protect employees against it, and the course of action to recover back pay.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft describes situations where an employee does not receive the correct compensation. This can include :
- Being paid less than the minimum wage,
- denial of meal and rest breaks, or
- not getting paid for overtime,
- an employer taking your tips
- being asked to report early or leave late without pay
Protections Against Wage Theft
If you believe that you have been a victim of wage theft, laws are in place to protect you. As of September of 2021, California law makes intentional wage theft a jailable offense through Assembly Bill No. 1003. You can also file a claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) in California. The DLSE will investigate your claim, and if they find that your employer has violated the law, they will order your employer to pay you the back wages you are owed. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes minimum wage and overtime pay standards.
Signs of Wage Theft
Wage theft can be difficult to spot because it often happens in small increments. For example, if you are not given a proper meal break or are asked to work through your lunch, the amount of money you are owed may seem insignificant. However, these small amounts can add up to a significant sum of money. There are many signs that you may be a victim of wage theft. If you think you may be a victim of wage theft, there are some signs to look out for:
- Your boss makes you pay upfront for a uniform.
- Your workplace misclassifies your work status, preventing you from receiving minimum wage or overtime pay.
- You buy something with your own money for your employer, but they don't reimburse you.
- Your boss tells you to work off the clock.
- Your paycheck is repeatedly incorrect, even after you've asked about it.
If you think you may be a victim of wage theft, you must keep track of the hours you work and how much you are paid. You may want to start by keeping a log of your work hours and comparing it to your paycheck. If you spot any discrepancies, this could signify that you are being shorted on your pay.
Recovering Your Wages
In order to recover your wages, it is recommended first to bring it to your superior's attention. If the error was a mistake, a responsible employer will immediately correct the mishap and send you a new paycheck for the outstanding wages. If this does not resolve the issue, your next step is to file a claim with either your state's labor agency or the Department of Labor.
When filing the claim, you will be asked to provide supporting documentation such as pay stubs, time cards, or bank statements. Once your claim is filed, an investigation will be opened, and your employer will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations. If the investigation finds that your employer did not pay you the wages you are owed, they will be required to pay you back plus interest. You may also be entitled to receive punitive damages in some cases.
It is highly recommended to seek the legal guidance of an employment lawyer. An experienced employment law lawyer will be able to review your case and determine the best course of action to help you recover the wages you are owed.
Southern California Labor Law Group PC Can Help You
Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and when wage theft happens, it can be a real setback. Fortunately, there are laws to protect employees against wage theft and help them recover the wages they are owed. If you believe you have been a victim of wage theft, don't hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation. We would be happy to review your case and discuss your legal option.
To get a free consultation, call today at (424) 306-1515.