How wage theft can affect your workers’ compensation benefits and more
A business must stay profitable to be sustainable. To achieve this, employers must expand income and minimize overhead costs whenever possible. Unfortunately, some employers take it too far and try to cheat their employees out of fair pay and even workers’ compensation.
The good news is that wage theft is illegal, so injured and victimized workers can pursue legal recourse if they can prove that it has happened to them. However, legal actions can only be taken if workers know when they are being scammed and report such cases.
Learn below what constitutes wage theft and the different tricks employers use to withhold pay.
What is wage theft?
Wage theft refers to unlawful tactics employers use to avoid paying workers the full amount they are owed. Although most forms of wage theft are intentional, sometimes it happens due to ignorance by the employer.
Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, all employers must comply with minimum wage and overtime rules. Victims of wage theft can file a lawsuit or register their complaint with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division. If they are found guilty, the employer will be required to pay for the wages owed. They also are penalized for violating the law.
Types of wage theft
Wage theft is perpetrated in different ways. Some of them are obvious, such as withholding pay. Others are subtle and harder to discover. Below are a few examples of common wage theft tactics you should be aware of.
This is the most blatant form of wage theft. You have a right to fair compensation for the work done. Immigrants and undocumented workers are the most common victim of this type of wage theft.
Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards, anyone who works has a legal right to be compensated. These rights extend to everyone, including undocumented workers. Although such people are unable to legally work in the U.S, once a business chooses to employ them, they must pay what is owed.
Another example of unpaid wages is when employers fail to pay vacation wages or final wages when an employee leaves employment.
Unpaid overtime is the most common type of wage theft. Generally, most employees who work for more than 40 hours in a workweek are entitled to overtime pay.
In Georgia, workers who are engaged in executive, professional and administrative roles and paid at least $455 per week are exempt from overtime. Generally, employers are entitled to 1.5 times their standard pay. For instance, if you earn $10 an hour, overtime pay should be $15 an hour.
Remember, an employer asking you to work overtime isn’t illegal. It only violates the law when you are not properly compensated for the overtime worked.
Workers who are classified as independent contractors may not be entitled to certain benefits. Unlike employees, independent contractors run their own business and work as per a written agreement. They are also exempted from employee benefits, such as Medicare and workers’ compensation.
Unfortunately, some employers use this loophole to cheat the system. By misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor, employers can avoid paying overtime, income taxes and compensation for injuries on the job. If found guilty, the employer will incur hefty fines and be required to settle all back pay.
Minimum wage violation
Under no circumstance should deductions leave an employee with less than the minimum wage per hour worked. If this happens, it may be a sign of wage theft. In Georgia, the minimum wage is set at $5.15 per hour. However, the federal minimum wage is higher at $7.25 an hour. Any company required to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must adhere to the federal minimum wage.
Additionally, some employers are exempted from minimum wage requirements. For instance, businesses with 5 or fewer employees are exempted. Ask your workers’ compensation lawyer whether your employer is exempt or not.
Few people get their full salary or wages. It is normal to get deductions, such as pension contributions and health insurance. However, there is a limit to what an employer can deduct from your wages. For instance, employers should not deduct money for meals that are provided at work.
Similarly, deducting employees’ wages for violation of company policies is illegal. The employee should authorize all deductions, such as union dues and charitable contributions, and they can bring a claim seeking clarification or repayment for illegal deductions.
Unpaid work injury claims
Accidents happen in the workplace, despite all safety regulations and precautions. When such unfortunate incidents occur, most injured workers in Georgia are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These funds are instrumental in settling medical bills and compensating a worker for lost wages. Unfortunately, some employers try to cheat their workers out of their compensation.
Some dishonest tactics used include:
- Asking you for a recorded statement. This statement can be taken out of context and used against you.
- Asking you to agree on a quick settlement on the spot. This is done before you realize the full extent of your injuries.
- Downplaying your injuries. Employers and insurance adjusters do this by trying to attribute the injuries to pre-existing conditions.
When to seek help from a Georgia work injury lawyer
Hopefully, you will now recognize some of the tactics employers use to commit wage theft if it happens to you. Workers’ compensation laws exist to help workers get what they deserve. However, millions of workers still suffer at the hands of employers due to wage theft. Unfortunately, most cases go unreported.
If you believe you are a victim of wage theft, you can get help from our experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers. We can explain what your case is worth.