Unpaid wage claims are claims brought by employees against employers when the employer has not paid all the money that has been earned by the employee. The claim may be brought against the employer under state or federal laws. The Federal Fair Labor Standard Act protects employee’s rights for every hour that they have worked and also protects the employee’s right to earn at least the federal minimum wage.
State laws also protect the employee against unpaid wages, and the state laws even provide protections for employees for wage and hour disputes including setting time limits within which employees must be paid.
What Are Minimum Wage Violations?
Minimum wage violations are when an employer does not pay an employee the required minimum hourly wage. Employees must earn at least minimum wage, which is at least $7.25 under federal law. Depending on the state or city you work in, the minimum wage may be more.
Even if you are not paid based upon minimum wage, your employer may still violate the law. If you are paid tips, your employer must pay you at least $2.13 per hour. Further, after tips, you must make at least $5.12 per hour. If you do not have enough tips to reach $5.12 per hour, then your employer must supplement the difference.
When Do Employers Violate Hourly Wage?
Employers violate the hourly wage laws when they force employees to work for free. These include instances where employees work without pay:
- Off the clock (i.e. before and after clocking in)
- During unpaid lunches
- During mandatory paid breaks
- Required training classes
- Travel time during working hours
- Waiting time for the employer during work premises
- Withholding overtime pay
- Infrequency of Pay
Depending on the state you work in, the state may set time frames when you need to be paid by. For most states, you must be paid every other week or twice monthly.
What About Laws On Employee Vacation Time?
Rules on vacation time vary between the states. Though no employer is required to provide paid vacation time, once provided the vacation time is subjected to regulations. Employers generally cannot force employees to cash out on their vacation time or take them back if employees do not use them.
What are the Laws on Tips and Paycheck Deductions?
Tips belong to the employee who earned them. Employers cannot take the tips away from the employee. Unless the tips go to a tip pool where they are divided amongst the employees.
As for paycheck deductions, the rules vary between states. Employers may or may not be allowed deductions for tools and uniforms.
What Are Some Common Remedies in Unpaid Wages Claims?
Unpaid wages claims result in a damages award that is issued from the employer to the employee. The damages are enough to provide the employee for the hours that they have worked, plus any losses related to the claim, such as attorney fees, lost profits, lost deals, etc. Other wage and hour claim remedies include:
- Requirements that the employer change their payment and hour requirements in order to conform with state/federal laws
- Investigations into the company’s overall record-keeping practices
- Firing of a supervisor or manager
- Reinstatement of the worker back to their previous position
- Attorney fees
How Are Unpaid Wages Claims Proven?
Unpaid wages claims often require analysis of many different documents and statements. These can include:
- Pay stubs
- Work logs (input of clocking in/out, etc.)
- Tax papers
- Receipts and other documents
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?
If you suspect your employer has been violating the wage laws, then you should inform your human resources department. If nothing is done, then you should consult an employment lawyer to file a claim against the employer. You do not want to wait too long to file a claim because you only a limited time to file before the statute of limitations runs its course.