Consider going to the grocery store. You finish your shopping and notice an extra box of cereal on your receipt. You return in two weeks, get the same items and this time you were charged for a candy bar you did not purchase. Now imagine this happens every two weeks you go to the grocery store. Do you let it slide?
Now consider the same exercise with your paycheck . Except the perceived mistake is a purposeful act on behalf of your employer. Do you let it slide?
The widespread practice of employer's keeping rightfully earned wages from employees is commonly referred to as wage theft. In Pennsylvania, wage theft carries both criminal and civil penalties.
For example, in December 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered retail giant Walmart to pay $188 million to Pennsylvania workers for not paying them for breaks and total hours worked.
Do you believe you may be the victim of wage theft? Click here to contact one of our employment law attorneys for a free consultation.
Common Wage Theft Practices
- Time spent preparing your work station
- Incorrectly labeled as independent contractor
- "Off the clock" work
- Overtime pay
- Wrongfully taking employee tips
A common employer practice is labeling regular workers as "independent contractors." Doing so allows the employer to escape several requirements, including paying minimum wage and overtime. A 2008 study by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry estimated 9 percent of Pennsylvania workers, or 580,000 people, were mislabeled as independent contractors!
Think of it this way: "When a worker earns minimum wage ($290 for a 40-hour week), shaving a mere half hour a day from the paycheck means a loss of more than $1,400 a year, including overtime premiums. That could be nearly 10 percent of a minimum-wage employee's annual earnings-the difference between paying the rent and utilities or risking eviction and the loss of gas, water, or electric service." (Courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute)
"Wage theft is by far the most common complaint we hear from workers in Pennsylvania," says Meredith Rapkin, Executive Director of Friends of Farmworkers, a non-profit organization devoted to providing free legal representation on employment-related issues throughout the Commonwealth. Ms. Rapkin added that "we most often see it as a failure to pay overtime or in the form of work 'off the clock' that people are not getting paid for."
If you believe you or a group of fellow employees are experiencing wage theft, there is a limited time to act. The employment law attorneys at Quatrinini Rafferty are available to analyze your wage rights - the initial consultation is free.
So, when is the last time you looked, closely, at your paycheck?