Avoiding Wage Theft
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
The U. S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hours Division claims the United States is currently enduring widespread “wage theft” – employers’ violations of minimum wage laws and overtime laws, deliberate mislabeling of employees as independent contractors and erasure of work hours and wrongful taking of tips. The Division claims that it has discovered almost $1 Billion in unpaid wages since 2010. According to state and federal agencies, this practice is being used against middle income workers as well as low wage workers.
Relatively recent activities, such as “Fight for $15” movement, have increased awareness about wage theft, causing state attorneys general in New York, California to go after service industry franchises for wage theft from their employees.
The Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman, has sued local franchises for McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza and Papa John’s Pizza. In early September 2015, an owner of several Papa John’s franchises was ordered to pay $800,000 in back pay to employees who were underpaid because the owner rounded their hours down to the nearest hour and failed to properly pay overtime. Schneiderman is also seeking to hold the parent corporations more accountable, as they tend to micromanage their brands, including monitoring time sheets, quality control tests and heavy franchise fees that move franchisees to shortchange employees in order to make a profit.
California is one of the most forward-thinking states regarding wage theft, having passed legislation to guard against it and enable workers to remedy underpayment. What should you do if you find that you are being underpaid?
- First, know that California protects all its workers, regardless of immigration status, the lack of a Social Security Number, or the lack of a picture ID;
- Secondly, keep track of your hours for each day because working in excess of 8 hours in a single day means you’re entitled to overtime pay;
- Third, compare your notes about your hours with your paycheck and determine whether you are being shortchanged;
- Fourth, file a wage claim to recover unpaid wages;
- Fifth, file a report of labor law violation;
- Sixth, file a public works complaint, if applicable;
- Seventh, file a retaliation complaint if you are fired, demoted or otherwise punished for reporting the labor law violations;
- Eight, the instructions and forms can be accessed here: www.wagetheftisacrime.com
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T let your immigration status, lack of Social Security Number or lack of picture ID stop you from pursuing your fair wages;
DO keep track of your hours for each day because working in excess of 8 hours in a single day means you’re entitled to overtime pay;
DO compare your notes about your hours with your paycheck and determine whether you are being shortchanged;
DO file a wage claim to recover unpaid wages;
DO file a report of labor law violation;
DO file a public works complaint, if applicable;
DO file a retaliation complaint if you are fired, demoted or otherwise punished for reporting the labor law violations;
DO access instructions and forms for wage claims, report of labor law violation, public works complaint and retaliation complaint here: www.wagetheftisacrime.com
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS/LABOR LAW DOS AND DON'TS