While workers in the United States are protected by employment laws, many still lose out on wages, including overtime pay or unpaid time. In instances of wage theft, some workers are taking legal action to hold their employers accountable.
Federal and state agencies say that more employers than ever are violating wage and hour laws; however, more employees are using wage theft lawsuits to successfully hold their employers responsible for this illegal behavior.
A wage theft lawsuit seeks to recover illegally withheld pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to meet a variety of standards when it comes to paying their employees. There are also state laws that can provide additional protection to employees. Common examples of wage theft include:
- Failure to pay overtime
- Forcing employees to turn over all or part of their tips
- Requiring employees to underreport their hours
- Requiring employees to work through their mandated breaks
- Failure to pay employment-related expenses
- Failure to pay minimum wage
Wage theft is not always cut and dry, however. In certain cases, employers were found to be miscategorizing workers as exempt from overtime pay or as independent contractors to cheat them out of pay. Additionally, employers can make tip-sharing policies and other instances of wage theft and other violations of workers’ rights sound like terms a worker must agree to for continued employment. Low-income workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft.
Wage Theft Lawsuit
The first step for an employee concerned about wage theft is to file a complaint with the US Department of Labor. After providing you and your employer’s information as well as details about how and when you were paid, the Wage and Hour Division will begin investigating the complaint. If the agency finds your employer has been committing wage theft, an administrative process begins. As a result, your employer may choose to pay back the illegally withheld wages or fight the process. The Wage and Hour Division may then choose to file a wage theft lawsuit against your employer.
It can be nerve-wracking to consider legal action to hold your employer accountable for wage theft; however, the Fair Labor Standards Act protects employees from retaliation for fighting for their rights using a wage theft lawsuit.
While the FLSA provides protection, navigating wage and hour laws can be complicated and an experienced employment law attorney can help with your wage theft lawsuit. An attorney can thoroughly evaluate any claims you may have against your employer in addition to wage theft. They will review your employment contract, consider whether you have a claim for discrimination, and provide representation for you in court or in any settlement negotiations. Additionally, it is likely that your employer will retain an attorney for representation and employment attorney on your side can help protect your rights.
If you have experienced wage theft, contact the experienced attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher to help evaluate your claim.