4 Red Flags That Your Employer Might Be Underpaying You
What employees need to know about wage theft
Have you ever suspected that your paycheck is smaller than it should be?
If so, you’re not alone. The reality is that unscrupulous employers may have a variety of techniques for nickel and diming employees out of their hard-earned money. Over time, the accumulated loss in compensation can lead to a significant reduction in overall wages for employees, while employers enjoy the benefits of lining their pockets at workers’ expense.
Some employers may offer intentionally confusing explanations for a pay discrepancy with the hope that workers will not pursue the matter. That’s why it’s important for employees to understand what they’re entitled to under the law.
Here are four warning signs that you may be a victim of wage theft.
- Overtime doesn’t match your calculations
Overtime is an area that commonly triggers pay disputes. Workers may believe that they’ve carefully tracked their hours only to find that their paychecks do not reflect the compensation that they believe they’re entitled to.
Employers who are looking to shortchange workers’ overtime hours may offer explanations such as the following:
- Overtime is not calculated weekly but rather over two-week or monthly pay periods.
- Some duties do not count toward overtime, such as time spent “on call.”
- Employees who are paid by the day are not entitled to overtime.
It’s important to know that federal law specifies that overtime must be based on the number of hours in a given work week (defined as a period of seven consecutive days).
On-call time may or may not be compensable. Generally, non-exempt employees who have to remain on work premises or whose freedom is restricted because of the potential for sudden work obligations may be entitled to compensation for that time. If so, those hours should count toward overtime totals. Of course, it’s important to look at these situations on a case-by-case basis.
- You are a manager in name only
Getting a so-called promotion to management may not always be a good thing if it means that you’re no longer entitled to overtime. The sad fact is some employers intentionally misclassify employees for this very reason.
It’s important to know that a person’s status as exempt or non-exempt is not dependent on his or her job title alone. The U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines governing who is exempt and who is non-exempt.
If you are considered exempt from overtime but your duties differ little from those of non-exempt employees, you may have been unlawfully misclassified.
- You work through lunch but don’t get paid for it
Skipping a meal break or scarfing down some food while continuing to work is not unusual for many people, and being asked to work through a meal break is not unlawful in most cases.
However, if meal breaks are deducted from your paycheck anyway, that may cross the line into unlawful territory. People who work for companies with accounting systems that make automatic deductions may be especially likely to experience this.
- You don’t know when you’ll get paid, your paycheck bounces, or you have unexpected deductions
One particularly troubling form of wage theft occurs when employers hand out paychecks that they know are likely to bounce. Often, workers may find that it’s difficult to track down their managers after instances such as this.
Some employees may discover that their paychecks include unanticipated deductions for equipment that was supposedly broken or stolen. Others may go weeks without any compensation, forced to hang on to the hope that their employers’ promises to pay tomorrow or next week will come true.
What employees need to know
Issues surrounding compensation can be complicated. If you suspect that your employer has been unlawfully shorting or denying your pay, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney to find out about your rights.
Call us to discuss your unique situation today.