January 17th, 2013

Employees being underpaid for the work that they do might be considered back luck by some, but legally if an employer doesn’t pay properly, it’s called wage theft.

Some companies simply tell employees that they don’t pay overtime, which is an illegal labor practice if they also require employees to complete more work than is possible in 40 hours. In that respect, many employees are misclassified, meaning that they are considered exempt from overtime pay when they really shouldn’t be, or they are called independent contractors when in fact they’re regular employees. These misclassifications are an attempt to save money by the employer, but they are a violation of labor laws which clearly spell out the delineation between different types of workers.

Another common form of wage theft occurs in the form of tip stealing. Labor activists estimate that as many as ten percent of tipped laborers don’t actually receive their share of the gratuities.

Many employees notice that their paychecks are smaller than expected and are afraid to ask, or they ask and are later retaliated against for asking about the low wages. Some employees don’t realize that this is illegal or they don’t know that they have any recourse against wage theft. Employers cannot fire someone for reporting misconduct or for asking that their rights be enforced, so Minnesota workers should not be afraid to ask for fair pay. However, the safest way to do this is often through more official channels such as a human resources department if the company has one, through a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, or with the help of an employment law attorney.

Source: American Public Media, “Robbed on the job: Advice on fighting wage theft” Jan. 4, 2013.

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