The term “wage theft” is used to refer to any instance where an employer fails to give employees the wages they are owed. This hidden scourge is estimated to cost New Yorkers $3.2 billion every single year, with many of the victims being workers who make minimum wage, or close to minimum wage. Here are five of the most common forms of wage theft that employers commit against their employees:
- Failing to pay overtime
- One of the most common types of wage theft involves refusing to pay employees what they are owed for working overtime. This may include paying employees their normal wage for overtime instead of the legally required time-and-a-half, or it may mean simply not paying employees for any overtime worked. In some cases, employers will force employees to clock out early and continue working to avoid leaving a paper trail for this practice.
- Misclassifying employees
- Another common type of wage theft involves misclassifying employees as other types of workers to avoid costs related to them. For example, some employers will classify even low-level employees as “managers,” who are exempt from overtime laws. Others will misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying Social Security taxes or workers’ compensation, illegally shifting the burden of those costs onto their employees.
- Stealing tips
- Many types of workers are reliant on tips to make up for lower wages, which can legally be lower than minimum wage so long as their tips can (on average) make up the difference. However, some employers will try to help themselves to their employees’ tips through various means, such as manipulation of tip-sharing arrangements. Some employers will go so far as to deduct tips from their employees’ pay, stealing their tips indirectly.
- Taking illegal deductions
- Speaking of deductions, some employers love to take illegal deductions out of their employees’ paychecks, which is a form of wage theft. This includes deducting time for mandatory meal breaks out of their paycheck when that is not allowed, or refusing to pay employees for work tasks done during their meal breaks. It may also mean deducting costs for spoiled or broken inventory, or taking money out of an employee’s paycheck to cover a customer’s unpaid bill.
- Failing to compensate work-related expenses
- Many types of workers engage in activities for work that costs them personally, including meal, lodging, and travel expenses. Employers are required to cover all reasonable expenses related to their employment. When employees try to get compensation for these expenses and find them deducted from their paycheck instead, that becomes a form of wage theft.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000 or visit his contact page.