The Nightmare of Wage Theft Strikes Again on Employee Rights
Stonehenge Restoration Company, owned by Sulajman Koci and Witold Matejkowski, has been ordered by the State of New York to pay 21 of its workers a total of $76,429 to settle a lawsuit brought against it alleging wage theft. How does this sort of wage theft happen?
An investigation into the company revealed that between January 2014 and March 2015, they didn’t pay any wages to 21 workers for periods of time ranging from two to six weeks. Two workers were owed about $6,000 each, while other workers were owed between $2,500-$4,000 for their labors. As part of the settlement, the company owners have agreed to an internal monitor and submitting compliance reports to New York’s attorney general’s office.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft is the illegal practice of not paying workers what is due them. This could involve minimum wage violations, refusing to pay overtime, insisting workers work when they are “off the clock”, or withholding a final paycheck. Unfortunately, wage theft is common in the construction industry.
Sometimes wage theft occurs inadvertently when an employer misclassifies an employee as exempt (from overtime) when they should be salaried, while other times it’s an unscrupulous desire to improve the bottom line that causes companies to shortchange their hardworking employees. Either way, if your employer owes you money for work performed you needn’t worry about the intentions behind it. You need to contact an employment attorney who can help you navigate the process of filing a complaint.
Wage Theft Has Serious Ramifications for Employers
Often this sort of wage withholding involves undocumented workers or subcontracted positions. Employers who don’t pay face serious ramifications including criminal charges being levied such as grand theft and reporting to the IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor, or the state’s attorney general’s office. The problem is so common, there’s even a Florida Wage Theft Task Force.
Several counties in Florida have approved wage theft ordinances that allow for unpaid workers to file complaints and go to hearings. Some cities, like Miami, have an automatic payment system that provides workers with 3 times what they are owed if their employers are found guilty of wage theft.
Wage Theft and the Independent Contractor
Another area in which wage theft is prevalent is in working with independent contractors. Many construction firms, lawn care companies, and those requiring day laborers use “independent contractors” for the day or on a per-project basis. It’s an inexpensive way to cover temporary employment needs but many of these “independent contractors” should be classified as employees, particularly when the project gets extended on a permanent basis.
If you believe your employer has withheld money from you, or you are wrongly classified as an exempt employee or independent contractor, you need an employment attorney on your side. Often employers refuse to pay until they know a worker is represented and the issue can no longer be ignored.
Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A, today. The initial consultation is free.