Many employers try to bend the rules when it comes to the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as local state wage laws in an attempt to save money. If you believe your rights aren’t being met and your employer is breaking the law, there are certain steps you can take. First, let’s look at some of the more common violations.
Violations of the Minimum Wage Law
For every hour of work you put in, you have the right to be compensated with an amount that is at least equal to the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher. So, if a company is paying you less than the minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour according to federal law, they are breaking the law. Likewise, if you live in a state where the minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage but your employer is paying you the latter, they are, again, breaking the law.
However, it’s also quite common for an employer who is paying the equivalent or more than the minimum wage to still be violating this law as they take various deductions leading to your paycheck being lower than that stipulated by law.
For example, the FLSA allows companies to pay employees who receive tips as little as $2.13 per hour, as long as they make enough in tips to still average the minimum wage per hour. If the employee makes less than $5.12 per hour in tips, the employer will have to make up the difference. Note, though, that in some states, tipped employees are subject to the same minimum wage laws as everyone else.
Additionally, an employer cannot take deductions that lead to your hourly pay being less than minimum wage. According to law, the company can withhold certain amounts to cover employment costs or to satisfy a debt you owe the company. Note that some states do not permit the employer to take these types of deductions, regardless of how much you earn.
Violations Regarding Hours Worked
An employer must pay you for every hour you work, and some employers try to save money by violating this rule. Some common tactics include not counting time you work before you clock in and after you clock out, any breaks you work through, mandatory training, travel time, and time you spend waiting on the property of the employer.
What to do if You Suspect Your Employer is Breaking the Law
The first step you should take if you think your employer isn’t conforming to federal or state wage laws is to try to deal with the issue within the company. Speak to the human resources department or payroll regarding the issue, and follow the procedures within your company to inform management of the problem.
If you find you aren’t getting anywhere, then your best option is to consult an employment lawyer. You often have the option of filing an unpaid wage claim or a lawsuit to get money you are owed, but there’s no guarantee you will be successful. This is why the advice of an experienced lawyer is essential since he or she can study the facts and tell you whether it makes financial sense to pursue this more aggressive form of action. The employment attorneys at Makarem & Associates are well versed in dealing with wage law cases. Call us directly at 310-312-0299 or send us an email at [email protected].