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When you gain employment, you enter an agreement. You will do the work as defined within your job description (and sometimes even outside of that scope), and your employer will pay your wages. That sounds fairly straightforward, right?
Sometimes, though, employers don’t hold up to their end of the agreement. In Missouri and other states, there are laws in place to protect you, the employee, from wage theft. Unpaid wages aren’t uncommon, but not every employee knows that he or she has legal rights regarding pay.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at your laws as an employee in the state of Missouri, as well as how to find the best unpaid wage lawyers in St. Louis. If you’re missing wages, please read on to learn more about next steps you can take to recover them.
Missouri Wage Law: What You Need to Know
In the state of Missouri, you have laws that protect you when you’re employed. The most well-known of these is the minimum wage law. While the Federal minimum wage is only $7.25, the state of Missouri requires that employers pay their employees a least $10.30 per hour worked. Exemptions may occur for tipped workers and in a few other scenarios.
Secondly, all breaks under twenty minutes must be paid breaks. This even includes the time it takes to put on your uniform or other work-required gear! You have the right to clock in before dressing in scrubs, for instance. Furthermore, you should be paid for work you do after hours, like conference calls and even phone calls.
Thirdly, employers are required to pay time and a half for all hours worked beyond a 40-hour work week. Salaried workers are the exception.
Finally, you must be paid no less frequently than every 15 days if you work in a factory.
This by no means covers every employment law in the state of Missouri. However, the above represents a fairly accurate sampling of the basis for most unpaid wages cases in St. Louis.
What Is Wage Theft in Missouri?
Obviously, you expect your wages to be paid on time and accurately. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and sometimes mistakes are made. Your HR department may have miscalculated your wages, for instance. Or perhaps the time clock didn’t accurately record your hours worked. This is not wage theft, it’s just life!
However, if these issues aren’t resolved in a timely manner, you have the right to take action and seek recourse.
In St. Louis, there are several types of wage theft that are more common than others. One of the most frequently occurring examples of wage theft happens when employers fail to allow employees to remain clocked in for meetings, short breaks or after-hours work requirements. You are entitled to pay for that time. In fact, even short smoke breaks are paid breaks, within reason.
Failure to pay overtime is another example of wage theft that occurs more often than it should! If you are an hourly employee who has logged more than 40 hours in a work week, you are generally due time and a half pay for those “extra” hours.
One commonly overlooked instance of wage theft occurs when an employee is fired. Your former employer doesn’t have the right to hold your pay. Upon written demand, the business must be paid within seven days.
Of course, if you are still employed with an entity and they simply do not pay you when your paycheck is due, this is also wage theft. This is relatively uncommon, however, and sometimes a result of a larger organizational issue.
Suing for Unpaid Wages in St. Louis, Missouri
In the state of Missouri, employers who do not pay their employees as listed above may face civil lawsuits as well as government investigations. You are entitled to file a suit against your employer for any wage theft. A government investigation is usually more commonplace if multiple employees complain of an employer’s failure to fulfill obligations.
If you feel that your employer has been unlawfully withholding wages, the first thing you should do is follow the chain of command set forth in your employee handbook. Go “by the book” to avoid repercussions later.
If your employer is unresponsive, you should then seek to file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. This group, or the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in some cases, has the authority to begin an investigation.
Before you file your complaint, consider speaking with an unpaid wages lawyer in St. Louis. Your attorney can help you gather the documentation you need to support your case, potentially strengthening your likelihood of winning your lawsuit.
Once you’ve sought legal counsel and filed your complaint, you may decide to file a civil suit. Again, it’s usually in your best interest to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who has dealt with unpaid wages cases before. You will be better able to ascertain the validity of your case, and your attorney will help you prepare for court more effectively.
Do I Need to Hire an Unpaid Wages Attorney?
If your employer has failed to pay you what you’re due, you don’t necessarily need an attorney. It’s always best to go through the proper channels before taking legal action. “You catch more flies with honey,” and simple communication with your employer may be the only action you need to take!
There are instances, however, where the assistance of an attorney will be beneficial. Several examples include the following:
- You were laid off or terminated and your employer has not released unpaid wages to you.
- The company for which you worked has gone out of business and you can not contact them any longer.
- A large group of employees has not received pay and the employer is not cooperating with demands for wages.
- You find that your hours logged were manipulated by your employer in some way.
- You have been denied minimum wage as required by law - remember that the $10.30 hourly wage does not apply to all workers, and is not applicable to contractors.
- You were owed vacation time at the time of your termination.
If you’ve found yourself in a situation where communication with your employer is ineffective, seek the advice of an attorney. The best unpaid wages lawyers in St. Louis will offer a free consultation, and many will not require payment until you win your case.
While you do not explicitly need an attorney to fight against wage theft, hiring counsel may help improve the outcome of your case.
In the state of Missouri, employees are encouraged to file a civil suit if the unpaid wages total more than $5,000. Because of the large amount of money at stake, it may be in your best interest to do so.
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How long does an unpaid wages lawsuit take?
In an ideal world, your employer will realize the error of his ways and pay you what you’re owed outside of court! However, we know that very little in this world is ideal. Therefore, should you have to take your case to court you can expect to wait as long as 18 months to recover your lost wages.
Hiring an experienced attorney can help expedite the process. Your lawyer can assist you in gathering what you need to present a solid case, in turn allowing your case to move more quickly.
How much will I win in my unpaid wages lawsuit?
No attorney can guarantee the outcome of a case. The best we can do is speak with you throughout the process and communicate the ways in which we’re fighting on your behalf.
In the state of Missouri, you are permitted to sue your employer or former employer for your lost wages and for the reasonable cost of an unpaid wages lawyer. We will do our best to see to it that you receive that compensation.
When should I file an unpaid wages lawsuit?
As a rule, you should file your lawsuit as soon as possible. However, it’s usually advisable to communicate with your employer before you file suit.
With that in mind, the state of Missouri typically allows you two years to file for unpaid wages. This can be beneficial to you if, for example, you are missing wages due to an absence because of illness or injury.
If you are in the St. Louis, Missouri area and have experienced wage theft, contact us today. The team at Morgan & Morgan will work with you to fight for the pay you deserve. Call our office at 888-549-6943 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.