7 Forms of Wage Theft That Cost You Money
Wage theft happens when employers don't pay their employees fairly. The most common forms of wage theft include paying less than the minimum wage or not paying overtime. But other forms of wage theft cost workers millions of dollars each year. Here are seven forms of wage theft that cost you money.
Automatically Deducting Time for Meal BreaksMost states grant employees meal breaks. In states where workers get unpaid meal breaks, employees are not supposed to work during the unpaid meal break. Employers must pay for meal breaks if you perform any work during the break time. That includes checking work emails or answering phone calls.
If employers automatically deduct unpaid meal breaks from your paycheck, regardless of whether you worked during that time, they may owe you wages, plus fines and penalties.
Improper Deduction for DamagesWage theft laws prevent employees from deducting certain expenses from your paycheck. For salaried employees, for example, employers cannot deduct wages for spoilage or breakage. Some states protect hourly employees from wage deductions because a customer does not pay their bill. If deductions drop the employee's salary below the minimum wage, this also violates minimum wage protections.
Not Paying For Hours Worked Before Punch-In or After Punch-OutThe law requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked. This includes time spent preparing for work before you officially clock in or required work after you clock out. For example, if you have to prep a machine before work, your employer must pay for that time. If you have to install updates on your computer before you can log in, you must be paid for that required time.
These protections apply to all employees, including hourly and salaried workers.
Misclassifying Employees as Overtime ExemptOvertime protections guarantee time-and-a-half pay for employees who meet the qualifications. Employees classified as overtime exempt are not required to receive overtime pay. However, employers may incorrectly classify an employee as overtime exempt.
Misclassification can cost an employee thousands of dollars in lost overtime. Employees who have been misclassified as overtime exempt can receive back wages.
Abusing Unpaid InternsEmployers must follow federal requirements to hire unpaid interns. This includes demonstrating that the internship experience benefits the intern, that the intern does not replace a regular employee, and that the employer receives no immediate advantage from the intern's activities.
Interns who do not meet these standards must receive wages. Unpaid internships that violate federal standards are illegal.
Not Paying for Remote WorkToday, employers perform more remote work than ever before. Many employers expect their workers to respond to emails outside of work hours, for example. Employers must pay their employees for this form of remote work. Refusing to pay for remote work qualifies as a form of wage theft, and it can cost workers thousands of dollars in lost wages.
Employers who do not pay employees for remote work are violating labor laws.
Misclassification as an Independent ContractorIndependent contractors receive fewer wage protections than employees. If employers misclassify workers as independent contractors instead of employers, the workers may lose out on wages.
Misclassification as an independent contractor can mean not receiving minimum wage or overtime pay and other lost wages. Employers who wrongly classify someone as an independent contractor owe back wages.
What Can You Do About Wage Theft?While minimum wage violations and unpaid overtime are the most common forms of wage theft, these seven types of wage theft also cost workers millions of dollars each year. If you have experienced wage theft, an employment lawyer can help recover unpaid wages, back pay, and other compensatory damages.