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Can I Sue for Missing Wages?

Can I Sue for Missing Wages?

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Can I Sue for Missing Wages?

Wage theft is common and, unfortunately, widespread in the U.S. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft affects millions of employees, with minimum wage violations alone estimated to total $15 billion annually. Many workers might not even realize that their employers are exploiting them.

Wage theft is illegal, immoral, and unfair. However, you do not have to put up with it. As a worker, you have rights. If you wonder, “Can I sue for missing wages?” the answer could be yes. 

Morgan & Morgan wants to help you reclaim the money that is legally yours. Our experienced employment attorneys are ready to fight for maximum compensation for workers who have experienced wage theft by unscrupulous employers. Contact us now for a free consultation to determine whether you could sue for missing wages.

What Is Wage Theft?

Wage theft can be soul-destroying for honest and hardworking individuals struggling to make ends meet. Moreover, employees may not even know that their employer is committing wage theft. For example, employees could be unaware that they are wrongly classified as independent contractors and lose out on benefits and protections. Some common forms of wage theft include but are not limited to: 

Unpaid Overtime

Unless they are overtime-exempt, employees are entitled to paid overtime if they work over 40 hours in a week. Working overtime without getting paid is a form of wage theft. Unpaid overtime can be common in the hospitality industry and in-home health care. 

Working “Off the Clock”

Working off the clock describes work activities that are not counted towards an employee’s paid hours. Employers should pay hourly workers for any time spent preparing for their job or cleaning up after their day’s work. For example, if a server spends time preparing the restaurant for the next day’s business without receiving pay, they work off the clock. Off the cock work can also include working through lunch and other breaks.

Misclassifying Employees

In some cases, employers misclassify employees as independent contractors. Misclassification can cost workers dearly. They may be missing wages, benefits, and protections such as workers’ compensation when injured. Moreover, independent contractors cannot claim unemployment benefits when fired. Businesses typically misclassify employees to save money and avoid paying payroll taxes.

Unpaid Breaks

Federal law does not obligate employers to offer breaks. However, short breaks of between five to 20 minutes count as compensable work hours. According to some state laws, employees are entitled to paid breaks. Breaks for which you should have received pay also count towards your hours worked. Therefore, unpaid breaks could take your total weekly hours above 40, and you might be owed money for overtime. 

Paying Less Than the Legal Minimum Wage

Currently, the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 an hour for most workers. Some states have enacted legislation requiring even higher minimum hourly wages. When an employer pays less than the hourly minimum wage, they commit wage theft and violate labor laws.

Stealing or Misappropriating Tips

Employers may credit tips towards the minimum wage, which is unlawful in some states. An employer could also pool tips and divide them between all employees, including untipped workers. Some employers simply steal the tips. All these practices are a form of illegal wage theft.

Not Getting Paid at All

If you are working for someone, whether a business or an individual, you must get paid for your time, including all hours and days worked. If your employer fails to pay you at all, you are experiencing the most blatant form of wage theft. 

What You Can Do

If you are a victim of wage theft, you could receive damages such as back pay, commission, tips, and others. An employment lawyer from Morgan & Morgan can explain your legal options for getting justice.

You Could Have a Legal Case for Unpaid Wages

In some cases, you can sue for missing wages. You could have a case if an employer failed to pay you: 

  • The legal minimum wage in your state
  • For “off the clock” work
  • Break time provided by law 
  • Overtime 
  • Untaken vacation time
  • Work-related travel time

However, missing wage claims can be complicated, and whether you can sue can depend on several factors, including the relevant state and federal laws. To determine whether you have a case, contact Morgan & Morgan today. You could be entitled to compensation for missing wages. 

A Labor Attorney Could Help You Get Your Money Back 

An employee could hold an employer accountable who violated wage and hour laws and committed wage theft. Contacting an attorney with experience in employment law can be critical as you could have various avenues for getting your money back. A lawyer can help determine the best course of action in your specific case.  

Establish Whether You Have a Legal Case

Our labor attorneys can analyze your case and determine whether you can sue your employer. Importantly, we can also help you assess and calculate precisely how much money you are owed. Many victims of wage theft are not aware of how much money they are missing as they typically focus on the most apparent form of wage theft, such as unpaid overtime or off-the-clock work. 

Identify All Your Options 

Suing an employer may not be the only option for getting your money back. In the first instance, you could negotiate informally with your employer to determine if they are willing to reimburse you for missing wages. In some states, you can file a claim against your employer with the state’s labor department.  

Collect Evidence to Build Your Case

To be successful with a lawsuit or claim, you will have to present appropriate evidence for the wage theft, which can be tricky to obtain. Our attorneys can gather and organize the relevant evidence proving that your employer withheld wages from you. 

Standing up against your employer can feel overwhelming. Moreover, employers typically have the experience and resources to fight wage claims. A determined lawyer in your corner, fighting for what you are owed, can level the playing field and help you get what you deserve. 

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FAQ

Morgan & Morgan

  • Can an Employer Deduct Money From My Pay to Balance the Cash Register? 

    Whether an employer can deduct missing money or breakages from your paycheck depends on the state you live in. There are no laws regarding deductions from employees’ paychecks in some states. Therefore, in those states, your employer can potentially deduct an amount from your paycheck to cover shortages. Employers may deduct wages for the following and other items:

    • Tools and equipment required for the job
    • Breakages 
    • Loss of property belonging to the employer
    • Cash shortages
    • Uniforms

    However, in some states, laws determine that an employer cannot simply pay you less to make up for cash register shortages or equipment required for your job unless you agree in writing. Importantly, under federal law, your employer must not deduct wages if it takes your pay below the federal minimum wage for the pay period. 

  • Which Damages Could I Recover With a Missing Wages Lawsuit?

    If you prevail in a wage theft lawsuit against your employer, you could qualify for the following damages and others: 

    • Any unpaid wages due 
    • Unpaid overtime
    • Unpaid meal and rest periods 
    • Interest accrued on missing wages
    • Attorney’s fees and legal expenses

    You could also receive punitive damages. Some state laws provide that employers committing wage and hour violations must pay a penalty to the affected employee in addition to compensation for actual damages. 

  • Which Documents Do I Need for Proving Missing Wages?

    The following documents can help prove your case: 

    • Your job description and employment agreement
    • Paychecks
    • Paystubs
    • Timesheets
    • Any other documents relating to your employment

    An attorney from Morgan & Morgan can help collect the evidence needed to file a lawsuit for missing wages.

  • What Are My Best Next Steps After Discovering Missing Wages? 

    You may have several options for getting justice. For example, you could file a claim with your local U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Once the DOL has investigated your missing wages case, the department can move forward to reclaim your wages from your employer. The DOL will manage the payment process and may also penalize your employer. 

    You could also initiate an individual lawsuit to reclaim your missing wages. This can be the preferred option, particularly if you miss a considerable amount of back pay. 
    However, before deciding on your next best step, consider consulting with a labor attorney who can assess your case and walk you through all your options for getting what you deserve. 

  • For How Long Can I Sue for Missing Wages?

    Victims of wage theft generally have limited time to file a lawsuit depending on the applicable state and federal laws. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), individuals typically must file a suit within two years of the missing wages violation. However, in certain circumstances, the time to file a lawsuit could be shortened or extended. For example, if your employer’s wage and hour violation was willful, you could have up to three years to file a suit against them. 

    Most states determine their own time limits for filing wage and hour violation lawsuits. Since you may be unable to claim damages once the deadline for filing a claim has passed, it can be crucial to contact an attorney as soon as you become aware of the wage theft. An employment law attorney at Morgan & Morgan can help you file a lawsuit within the applicable state and federal deadlines and protect your legal rights
     

  • I Agreed to Work Unpaid; Do I Have a Case?

    You might still have a case for missing wages even if you agreed to work unpaid. Employees agree to work unpaid for several reasons, such as: 

    • Showing enthusiasm and eagerness for their job
    • Feeling that a certain amount of unpaid overtime is expected
    • Not knowing that they are entitled to overtime pay
    • Trying to “fit in” when newly hired 
    • Being embarrassed to ask for overtime

    In all these cases, even though you agreed or agreed by default to work for free, your employer is still violating hour and wage laws. Generally, all the time you spend working for an employer should be duly recorded and paid. Therefore, even if you agreed to work for no pay, you could still have a case against your employer and should speak to an attorney to confirm your options. 

  • My Employer Fired Me After Filing a Wage Claim; What Are My Options?

    Retaliation by employers is illegal. Therefore, if your employer wrongfully terminated you for filing a missing wage claim, you could have a case against them and recover additional damages related to the unlawful retaliation. However, in practice, retaliation can be challenging to prove. In at-will states, for example, an employer is entitled to fire employees without having to give a reason. The burden will be on you to prove that the termination or other adverse employment action occurred due to an employer’s retaliation. 

    When you get fired, demoted, or unfairly treated by an employer after filing a claim for missing wages, you need the assistance of a seasoned employment attorney to fight for what you deserve.  

  • Morgan & Morgan Wants to Help You to Get Justice

    Every American deserves to be paid for all the hours they work. When an employer withholds wages, they are violating federal and state laws and exploiting hardworking individuals. Shockingly, some of the biggest employers in this country have had to defend claims of wage theft and labor law violations. 

    Workers missing wages should not have to struggle to make ends meet while powerful companies make huge profits. Morgan & Morgan thinks wage theft in any form is unacceptable and has to stop. We want to help you get what you deserve and hold unscrupulous companies to account for their illegal conduct. 

    Our dedicated attorneys work for the people and not the powerful and have recovered over $13 billion for our clients so far. Contact us today to determine for free whether we can help you recover your missing wages.

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