When you sign up to work for someone, it is crucial to understand the terms and conditions of the employment contract and the relevant federal and state labor laws.
Most employers treat their staff fairly and according to the law, but not all do. As several recent high-profile cases brought by employees against their employers show, some companies are more concerned about their profits than the wellbeing of their employees.
How big a problem is wage theft?
Researchers estimate U.S. employers get away with paying around $15 billion less per year to workers than they should. Some researchers believe employers consider this a risk worth taking. Here are some of the ways that your employer might be profiting at your expense:
- Not paying you for all your time at work: When do you start working? Is it when you pick up the company vehicle to drive to a job? Is it when you change into the required protective clothing? Or is it when you begin the first task of the day?
- Not allowing proper breaks: You need to be clear about allocated break times, how long they last and if you get paid for them. Does eating a sandwich while you drive to the site count as lunch? Does going to the bathroom or grabbing some water count as a break?
- Not paying overtime at the appropriate rate: Most workers should receive overtime pay at time and a half if working over 40 hours per week. Yet employers may not tell you this or may refuse to pay it.
If your employer’s actions breach the Fair Labor Standards Act or the state equivalent, you may be able to take legal action to reclaim what your employer owes you.