Employees trust their employers to pay them fairly for the work they perform, but many employers take advantage and commit wage theft by failing to pay their workers as they should.
Wage theft is a significant problem, with wage theft statistics indicating an alarming need to correct this issue. In the last few years alone, more than $3 billion has been recovered in unpaid wages for workers across the country.
What Is Wage Theft?
Many have heard of this before, but what is wage theft?
Wage theft is any instance where your employer fails to pay you fairly for your work. Examples include:
- Failing to pay you fairly for your work
- Not paying you minimum wage
- Not providing overtime pay
- Requiring work that is performed off the clock
You should speak to a skilled employment lawyer if you believe your employer has committed wage theft. An attorney can determine whether your employer’s actions constitute wage theft and discuss your legal options.
Examples of Wage Theft
Wage theft can take on many shapes. Some of the most common examples of wage theft include the following.
Not Paying for All Hours Worked
Your employer must pay you for all your work, regardless of the time you perform it.
Many times, employers think they can get away with not paying employees before or after their shift is over. For example, if you arrive early at the office and begin performing work duties half an hour before you are scheduled to start working, you are entitled to receive payment for this work.
If you notice your employer is not paying you what you are owed for the time you have worked, this could be considered wage theft.
Paying Less than the Legal Minimum Wage
Employers must pay their employees minimum wage based on where they are located. There is a federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, but Florida has its minimum wage of $10 an hour.
Employees in Florida must receive at least $10 an hour for their work. An exception exists, however, for tipped employees.
If you are a tipped employee, your employer must pay you at least $6.98 with the premise you will receive at least $3.02 in tips to make up the difference. Your employer must pay the difference if you do not make at least $10 an hour.
If your employer is paying you less than minimum wage, that is illegal and a clear indication of wage theft.
Failing to Pay for Overtime Work
Employees who work overtime deserve overtime pay. Florida does not have a law for overtime pay, so employers must follow federal law. Employees working more than 40 hours a week are entitled to time-and-a-half pay.
For example, if you make $15 an hour, your time and a half wage would be $22.50. So if you work 10 hours of overtime, you are entitled to receive $225 for the additional work.
Some workers, including salaried administrative employees and outside salespeople, are exempt from overtime pay.
If you are not an exempt employee and you work overtime without time-and-a-half pay, your employer is committing wage theft.
Requiring Work Performed Off the Clock
Employers are not allowed to require employees to work off the clock. If your employer asks you to perform any type of work duty, they must do so with the intention of paying you for it.
Employers might try to misclassify their employees to avoid paying them what they are entitled to receive.
For example, your employer may misclassify you as an exempt employee, so they do not have to pay you for overtime work. Not only is this wrong, but it is also considered wage theft.
Who Can File a Wage Theft Claim in Florida?
An employee whose employer is committing wage theft can file a wage theft claim in Florida.
Before taking action to pursue your unpaid wages, you must notify your employer of your intention to take legal action. If your employer does not correct the problem, you can proceed with taking action.
If you are wondering how to file a wage claim, it is best to discuss your situation with an experienced Florida employment attorney.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Wage Theft
If you believe you are a victim of wage theft, completing the following steps can help protect your rights and allow you to pursue unpaid wages.
Once you suspect your employer of committing wage theft, you should begin gathering helpful evidence. Evidence can include your pay stubs, employment contract, and communications with your employer.
Relevant evidence can significantly strengthen your claim.
Notify Your Employer
Provide your employer with written notice of your intention to take action for your unpaid wages. Your employer has 15 days to pay your unpaid wages, and if they fail to do so, you can proceed with a wage theft claim.
Consult with an Employment Lawyer
Ideally, you should discuss your wage theft case with an employment attorney as soon as you are able. A lawyer can review your situation and determine how best to handle your wage theft claim.
You can either file a claim with the Department of Labor or file a lawsuit for your unpaid wages. An employment lawyer can decide how to proceed to help you pursue the wages you are owed.
Ready to Discuss Your Case with a Florida Employment Attorney?
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., has decades of experience helping wronged employees. We understand the severity of wage theft cases and how these situations can affect a person’s life and livelihood. We use our knowledge, experience, and resources to help get our clients the compensation they need.
Contact our office today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.