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What Is Wage Theft?

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What Is Wage Theft?

Wage theft occurs when an employee is denied the wages, salary, or benefits that they are entitled to under law. This type of violation often places liability upon the employer or the party that is responsible for paying the employees. Wage theft can occur in a number of ways, including:

  • Failure to pay minimum wage
  • Failure to pay overtime rates to workers
  • Misclassification of workers in such a way that they are paid less than they are truly owed
  • Not paying the worker at all for their services

Wage theft can also occur if a deduction in wages violates the terms of an employment contract between the employee and employers. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the main law governing wage payments and wage protection.

Lastly, wage theft can sometimes include intentional acts where a co-worker or supervisor steals the wages intended for another employee. These types of cases are more criminal in nature and may be filed under a different set of laws.

Is Wage Theft the Same as Unfair Wages?

“Unfair wages” refers to instances where an employee is paid less than the standard amount paid to a worker doing similar tasks in the same field or industry. This is often calculated according to many factors, such as labor rates, geographical factors, and the type of task performed by the worker. Unfair wages can often be considered a specific sub-category of wage theft violations. In common usage, the terms “unfair wages” and “wage theft” are often used interchangeably.

Many unfair wage cases may also have an aspect of employment discrimination tied along in with the legal case. For instance, if a person is paid less solely based on their race, gender, or other personal characteristic, it might be considered employment discrimination. Here, the legal issues may overlap and may require legal assistance from a lawyer.

What Are the Remedies for a Wage Theft Case?

Wage theft claims often involve the worker suing an employer in order to obtain a legal remedy. In most cases, this results in a monetary damages award that may cover costs such as:

  • The total amount of lost wages caused by the violation (often called “back wages”)
  • Other damages related to the violation, such as a lost business opportunity
  • Payment of legal fees

Finally, some wage theft cases are also related to wrongful termination cases (for instance, where an employee is wrongfully terminated and their last paycheck is withheld from them). In this type of case, the legal remedy may include a reinstatement to their previous position within the company, as well as a reinstatement of the back wages owed.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Wage Theft Claim?

Wage theft is a serious offense, and being found guilty of it can often cause significant losses to an employer. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer in your area if you need help with any wage theft issues. Your attorney can help review the facts involved in your case to help determine what types of remedies you should seek. Also, your attorney can represent you in court if you need to attend any hearings or formal meetings.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 02-23-2017 04:55 AM PST

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