Unfair wage claims make up the majority of employment lawsuits. They are much more common than other types of employment lawsuits, such as harassment or disability claims. 

Unfair wage lawsuits are typically based on two different areas of employment law: wage and hour laws and discrimination laws

Unfair wage lawsuits that are based on wage and hour laws usually involve the following claims:

  • Failure to Pay Minimum Wage: Both federal and state laws require employers to pay workers at least >minimum wage. This rate may vary since the set amount for minimum wage usually increases over time. 
  • Withholding Overtime Pay or Other Wages: When an employer fails to pay an eligible worker their owed overtime pay, it may be considered a violation of employment laws. This can also include when an employer withholds benefits like retirement funds or disability payments.
  • Misclassification of Employees: Only certain employees may qualify to receive overtime payment. For example, employees who are “exempt” under the law, will not be entitled to receive overtime payments. If an employer mistakenly classifies an employee as exempt and they are not, this can lead to certain legal ramifications, including a lawsuit for unfair wages.

On the other hand, unfair wage lawsuits that are based on discrimination laws typically involve issues concerned with unequal pay. This situation may occur when an employee is discriminated against by being paid less than another employee for the same type of work. 

Unfair wage claims frequently arise due to discrimination that stems from the following factors:

  • Race;
  • Age;
  • Sex; or
  • National Origin.

What are Some Other Issues Involved in Lawsuits for Unfair Wages?

Aside from the two primary areas of employment law discussed above, (e.g., wage and hour laws, and discrimination laws), there might be other issues present in a claim for unfair wages. These issues may include:

  • Recordkeeping or Hours Worked: It is illegal to falsify wage records. This action can have a negative impact on a worker’s ability to receive a promotion or advance, their eligibility for insurance, and the worker’s retirement situation.
  • Child Labor: unfair wages sometimes involves hiring persons who should not be working to begin with, such as children or minors.

What Should I Do If I Have Legal Issues Involving Unfair Wages in My Workplace?

There may be several legal remedies available for an unfair wage violation. The first involves filing a complaint with a government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency will then conduct an investigation and provide an appropriate resolution if necessary, like requiring the employer to change their company policies. 

Another potential option is to file a private civil lawsuit against the employer who engaged in unfair wage practices. The employee may be able to receive a monetary damages award to attempt to recover any lost wages. It is usually necessary, however, to first file a complaint with a government agency before a private civil lawsuit can be brought against the employer. 

In any event, an employee should compile all evidence that supports a claim for unfair wage issues in their workplace. Some examples of such evidence include:

  • Employee tax returns (e.g., W2s);
  • Work schedules; and
  • Work-related documents, such as pay stubs, receipts, timesheets, or employment contracts.

An employee should also think about creating a written account of the violation, so that they have a record of the events leading up to the unfair wage violation. If possible, this record should include the contact information and testimonies of anyone who witnessed the unfair wage violation. 

Lastly, if several employees have been affected by an unpaid wage violation, then they may want to consider filing a class action lawsuit. Although class action lawsuits do not always guarantee a successful case outcome, it can serve as stronger evidence that a violation has actually taken place since so many workers have been impacted.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help If I Have Issues Involving Unfair Wages?

Claims involving employment or labor laws can be fairly confusing. In some cases, you will need to understand both the federal and state laws that apply to your matter. As such, if you have any questions or concerns regarding unfair wages, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local employment lawyer.

An experienced employment lawyer will be able to determine which laws apply to your specific case, whether or not you have a claim, and if so, the best way to handle your case to increase your chances of obtaining a successful outcome. 

In addition, a lawyer can also assist you with the process of filing a claim with a government agency, or if you have already completed this step, they can walk you through the proper procedures for filing in court.

Finally, a lawyer can either negotiate on your behalf during a settlement arrangement with your employer, or provide representation for you in court should it become necessary.