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Common Forms of Wage Theft and What You Can Do About It

Aug 4

If someone broke into your house or took money from your bank account, you wouldn’t doubt that someone stole from you. But what if your employer is withholding money from you or committing wage violations? The money you worked for is rightfully yours, but wage theft happens to many workers across all industries. 

If you suspect that your employer isn’t paying you the money you’re entitled to, you shouldn’t allow it to continue any longer. 

How Does Wage Theft Occur?

Wage theft isn’t always as obvious as an employer not paying an employee at all or seeing that your paycheck is noticeably different from others, despite your hours not changing. Wage theft is more inconspicuous because your employer isn’t trying to be caught. They have ways they’ve practiced and utilized before, but we have ways of looking for them. Here are a few ways wage violations commonly occur. 

Minimum Wage Violations 

In New York City, the minimum wage is $15 an hour for most employees. While some positions are exempt from this rule, businesses of all sizes are expected to pay their employees at least this rate. Not all employers adequately pay their employees who aren’t exempt from the city’s minimum wage laws, which could be a form of wage theft. 

Tip Theft

Those who work in the food and hospitality industries typically rely on tips to compensate them for their work and often make below the minimum wage without them. Wage theft can occur when employers don’t give tipped employers the full amount they deserve or keep tips for themselves. 

Illegal Deductions 

Your employer may take deductions from your paycheck on occasion, and there are many instances where this is legal. However, not all deductions are legal, and employees need to know what deductions are not allowed. There are many illegal deductions that can occur, such as deductions to help the business cover any damages or losses. Legal deductions also have limits as to how much employers can withhold from their employee’s paychecks. 

Off-the-Clock Work and Unpaid Overtime

Many employees find themselves working outside of their regular schedule. Employers may require that their employees show up early or work late to do work-related tasks or work beyond their 40-hour workweek. While employees may not be clocked in, they still deserve pay for the work they completed. However, some employers fail to pay their employees for off-the-clock work and overtime

Misclassification of Workers

Misclassifying an employee can become a serious issue when it affects the pay they receive. For example, misclassifying an employee can prevent them from getting overtime pay that someone in their actual position should be entitled to receiving.

How Does the Wage Theft Protection Act Help Employees? 

While wage theft still happens, New York State does have protections in place to help prevent employers from stealing wages from their employees. The New York Wage Theft Protection Act was created in 2011 to help protect workers and provide additional guidelines regarding wage theft. This requires employers to give their new hires notice regarding information like the rate of pay they receive, how they’re paid, and give employees notice in advance if their pay changes. The WTPA also lists penalties for businesses that fail to do this. 

What Can You Do to Stop Wage Theft?

If you suspect that your employer isn’t giving you the wages you worked for, find out what you can do to remedy the situation. All employees deserve to be paid for their work, and their employers should not be able to continue to withhold the money they earned. Reporting unpaid wages can not only help you, but it might also help your coworkers who could be struggling with this as well. Working with a  New York wage theft lawyer can help you reclaim what was taken from you.

Contact Brown Kwon & Lam today if you believe your employer has been withholding your wages.

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