When people picture a thief, they usually see a masked bandit or a purse-snatcher in their heads – not their bosses or employers. Yet, wage theft is estimated to actually be a far bigger problem than mere property theft.
In fact, a 2017 Economic Policy Institute study found that there’s $8 billion lost to wage theft in just 10 states alone – while property theft in all 50 states amounts to about $16.4 billion.
Signs that you’re a victim of wage theft
Wage theft is not always blatant or obvious. Rather, you may think that certain workplace rules or behaviors are your employer’s rights or just “business as usual,” when these policies are actually illegal ways of cheating you out of the compensation you earned for your labor.
Examples of wage theft can include:
- Not paying overtime. Shifting your overtime hours to the next pay schedule, telling you to work “off the clock” during clean-ups or opening and other tactics are common.
- Misclassifying employees. Classifying an employee as an independent contractor or a regular employee as a manager (to avoid paying them overtime or to enjoy other protections) is another common practice.
- Paying under the table. This may seem great to a young, naive employee – but it’s a way that an employer can avoid paying even minimum wages, much less health coverage or other compensation.
- Interference with breaks and meal periods. Your employer may work you straight through the day or tell you to take a “working lunch,” even though you may be entitled by law to specific minimum break periods and a meal period.
- Stealing tips. There are specific rules about how tipped employees must be compensated. If your employer is taking your tips, they may be in serious violation of the law.
If you suspect that you’re a victim of wage theft, don’t let your employer get away with it. Speaking with an experienced employment law attorney can help you to learn about your options to move forward.