Sometimes, when an employee is not paid for the work he or she completed, it is a simple mistake on the employer’s part. Perhaps hours were entered incorrectly, time sheets were misplaced, or another relatively reasonable mistake occurred due to basic human error. However, if you bring the issue to your employer and they do nothing about it or do not have an adequate answer for you as to why you were shorted hours or simply not paid altogether, you may be a victim of wage fraud.
Wage fraud is when an employee is not paid correctly or on time. This may involve the employer not compensating correctly for time worked over your 40-hour workweek, not paying you your full paycheck for any reason, not providing you with your paycheck on time, or perhaps not giving you your paycheck at all. If you are in a situation which you think involves wage fraud, there are several steps you can take to attempt to right the wrong.
The best way to protect yourself is to know and fully understand your rights as an employee and which laws protect you when your employer fails to pay you.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which creates employment laws relating to minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor. Knowing what the FLSA has set forth as appropriate standards for employees is an important step toward protecting yourself and your wages. This Act has established the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime pay, which is to be paid for all hours worked over your typical 40-hour workweek, at a rate of least one and one-half times your regular pay rate. While the FLSA sets the federal standard, your state may have set their own standards as well, and your employer must follow both sets of regulations.
Depending on your job, there may also be other statutes which set labor standards for the specific types of employee as which you are working. For example, the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts applies to people who work on federal construction contracts, state and local construction contracts which are federally funded, either in part or in full, while the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act applies to workers on federal service contracts and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act applies to people who are working on federal supply contracts. There is even a statute which applies specifically to migrant and other seasonal agricultural workers which includes appropriate wages, housing, and transportation, called the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
While there are federal regulations regarding wages and overtime pay, there are also laws specific to each state. In California, the state minimum wage is $12.00, while the national minimum wage is much lower. All employers must adhere to both state and federal laws and, since the state law is more generous, that is the one your employer must follow. Even some cities have specific wage laws, including the City of Los Angeles. Knowing the laws that apply to you and your employer is imperative to ensuring that your rights are respected and your wages are protected.
As soon as you realize that something is wrong with your paycheck, you should contact your employer to alert them of the incident. Contacting them in writing, for example sending an email, is a good idea so that you are better able to keep track of all conversations regarding the situation rather than trying to remember what was said during each conversation. During your initial contact, make sure that you are clear and concise, ensuring that you explain the situation fully and ask for your missing wages.
If your employer is unresponsive or does not have an adequate reason for the mistake and does not immediately correct it, you may begin to think about filing a claim against your employer to be awarded what you are entitled to, including your missing wages and possibly extra money for damages.
As is the case in most situations, should you choose to move forward with pursuing legal action against your employer, you must be able to prove that your employer owes you a certain amount of money in the form of your wages and that they did not remit those funds to you. This can be done in several ways, including the compilation and analyzation of your employment contract or offer letter which show the agreed upon yearly or hourly wage, prior pay stubs, bank account statements, timesheets, and any other documents which may help establish that your employer had agreed to pay you a certain wage and that they did not fulfill that obligation to you.
Unfortunately, employers sometimes do not treat their employees fairly and simply refuse to abide by applicable employment laws regarding wages. If it becomes clear that this is what your employer is doing, you may consider pursuing legal action in order to obtain what is owed to you and hold your employer accountable. While it may be tempting to attempt to file a claim on your own, nothing is an adequate substitute for an educated, experienced, and passionate employment law attorney.
The attorneys at V. James DeSimone Law have worked with countless clients concerned about what and how they were being paid by their employer. We understand that this is a confusing and emotional decision, which is why our attorneys offer free, no obligation consultations. Our legal professionals will review the details of your case, explain the process of filing a claim against your employer, and answer any questions you may have. When you choose to work with V. James DeSimone Law, you can rest assured that you have retained the highest quality legal representation and that your lawyer will work tirelessly to protect your rights and your wages. For a consultation of your case, contact us today at (310) 693-5561.
Attorney V. James DeSimone is a 35+ year experienced civil rights & employment lawyer in Southern California. Jim is a Super Lawyer, Rated “Superb” by Avvo, and is a US News & World Report Best Law Firm in California.
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