Lawsuits involving employees that have been the victims of wage theft by their employers have increased in the last few years. Many of these lawsuits have been a class action and have involved large companies. Many companies that have engaged in wage theft argue that they had no other choice because they were hit so hard financially.
However, no matter how serious a company’s financial loss has been, there is never an excuse for stealing from employees.
What is Wage Theft Protection?
Wage theft protection makes it compulsory for employers to pay the workers they victimized double the amount that was due plus other fines and legal costs.
The recent crackdown on these employment law violations has been spurred in part by a recent study that shows that California workers lose $18.4 million in unpaid overtime pay and minimum wages per week.
Added up, that means a loss of approximately a billion dollars annually. What’s more, the average low wage worker loses around 15% of his annual income. Lastly, three-quarters of those who work overtime do not receive the mandatory overtime pay premium and 69 percent of workers are not given meal breaks.
The Wage Theft Protection Act
Although California’s new Wage Theft Protection Act seems like the answer to the abused worker’s prayers, it is worthless if not coupled with strict enforcement. Improvements on existing laws have to be made with the welfare of the workers in mind.
Ideally, the unpaid overtime must be immediately taken from the offending employer and held in trust for the victim till the case is resolved. Companies need to know that the law means business and that the punishment for employment law violations can seriously damage them.
As of right now, California employment law violation cases crawl at a snail’s pace while the accused company keeps the unpaid wages as the complaining workers struggle for justice.
What’s worse, the amount due is normally negotiated to favor the employer. The Wage Theft Protection Act and other laws protecting the legal rights of workers are a great help to workers and employment lawyers in the fight for justice.
The Most Common Types of Wage Theft Include:
- Violating minimum wage laws–this has become an issue with illegal immigrants who fear that if they retaliate or seek legal ramification for their losses that they will be deported.
- Refusal to pay overtime for work exceeding 40 hours in one week.
- Forcing employees to work off the clock so that there is no record of the work that they performed.
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to get around minimum wage and overtime laws.
- Refusing to pay workers in general for jobs that they finished.
Employees can try to protect themselves from illegal payment practices by:
- Refusing to work off the clock.
- Making sure that there are records of time worked.
- Reporting any infraction regarding wages that occur.