In the quest to cut costs and improve the bottom line, some businesses compromise worker safety and comfort. This development can result in an endless cycle of wage violations, rampant discrimination, and workplace injuries. Sadly, some employers make such ignorant decisions believing that it will save the business money.
In most instances, this negative cost-cutting approach hurts the organization in various ways. It reduces staff morale and overall productivity, exposes the management to lawsuits, and increases employee turnover.
Common Types of Wage Violations
Some unscrupulous employers try to cheat employees out of their pay in the following ways:
1. Overtime Violations
According to experts on employment, these are the most common and costliest forms of wage theft. So long as you work more than 40 hours in seven consecutive days, federal law guarantees you overtime payment. The amount is usually 150% of your standard hourly pay for every extra hour you put in. For example, if your usual wage is $10 per hour, you’re entitled to $15 per hour during overtime.
Some states also have regulations for daily overtime thresholds. Sometimes, an employer might claim you’re exempt from overtime rules. While it’s true in some situations, unethical business owners use it as an excuse to deny you your rightful remuneration.
2. Banning Wage Discussions
Up to 50% of all employees agree to “pay secrecy” policies after coercion. That means you can’t discuss your wages or salary with colleagues. These rules prevent employees from bargaining collectively and promote income inequality based on race, gender, and other classes.
The Department of Labor has a factsheet to help you understand the legal aspects of such policies. While most states outlaw pay secrecy policies, a few don’t. Even so, it’s generally improper to punish employees for discussing their pay.
3. Refusing to Pay as Initially Agreed
Some employers take advantage of job seekers by promising them a particular wage then failing to honor the agreement. Others keep employees working with the promise of payment, only to vanish or refuse to do so weeks later.
4. Minimum Wage Violations
Other than the official federal minimum wage, most states have wage protection regulations. So long as you work at least 40 hours per week, you’re entitled to the prevailing minimum wage rate. Although your employer may deduct a part of your earnings as outlined by the law, you must consent to the rest.
Examples are union dues, charitable contributions, insurance premiums, and wage garnishments to pay tax debts and other creditors. Ultimately, your employer shouldn’t benefit from these deductions. Unlawful deductions may include charging employees for tools, materials, uniforms, and property damage.
5. Working off the Clock
This violation is another common type of wage theft. It occurs when your employer forces you to arrive early to work but officially punch in later. Some may also require you to work an hour or two after officially punching out without paying overtime. By doing so, a business violates minimum wage laws.
How to Protect Yourself from Wage Violations
It’s advisable to be vigilant from the first day of employment. Ensure the workplace conditions are consistent with the terms of your employment contract. Keep a log of crucial metrics such as dates and hours worked, as well as breaks.
Remember, wage rights are generally similar for all workers, including US citizens, visa-holders, and undocumented individuals. Some employers manipulate their workers by threatening to inform ICE of their immigration status if they demand fair remuneration.
Before taking legal action against your employer, it’s prudent to talk to them first. After all, some might make these violations out of ignorance or honest mistakes. If they fail to address the situation, you may seek help from an expert on employment.
A qualified attorney specializing in labor and wage laws will advise you on your legal options. Since your employer is also likely to have more resources to challenge your claims, you need an experienced and skilled lawyer who has your best interests at heart.
They should build a solid case depending on which aspects of various employee protection regulations your boss violates. An essential law in this regard is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which outlines the minimum wage and working hours. Others are the Affordable Care Act, Civil Rights Act, OSHA, and various whistleblower protection laws.
If you present a strong case, the courts may compel your employer to settle your attorney’s fees if you win. That’s why it’s advisable to collect as much evidence as possible of wage violations before taking legal action.
Poor working conditions don’t just hurt employees. They also adversely affect the entire business in the long run. Wage violations reduce workers’ commitment to meeting the company’s objectives. In their quest to save money through illegal means, such employers lose more. If you work in a hostile environment, an expert on employment will help you enjoy peace of mind.