Wage theft is by far the most financially harmful form of larceny that occurs in the United States, accounting for about $15 billion in losses to workers nationwide every single year. In Ohio alone, approximately 217,000 workers lose out on around $600 million in compensation each year just because of minimum wage violations. Further, other forms of wage theft add additional millions of dollars in damages onto that jaw-dropping figure, as well.
If your employer fails to pay you minimum wage, refuses to cover overtime hours, makes you work through breaks or outside normal shifts for no pay, or misclassifies you as an independent contractor, you should consider talking to a wage and hour attorney about your legal options. A seasoned Cleveland wage theft lawyer can help you understand your rights, how your employer may have violated those rights, and stand by your side through whatever litigation route you choose to pursue.
Wage theft takes numerous forms in Cleveland and throughout the state, each of which could independently serve as grounds to contact an attorney to consider filing a lawsuit. Here are some of the most common ways in which employers unlawfully deny workers compensation.
Both federal and state laws establish rights and privileges that apply to workers who are considered “employees,” but not to those considered “independent contractors.” Accordingly, employers sometimes intentionally misclassify workers in order to deny pay and/or benefits.
There are various circumstances under which employers can legally pay workers through systems other than by salary or hourly wage—for example, truck drivers can be paid by the mile, and servers can be paid in tips. However, if the amount of compensation a worker receives in these situations relative to the number of hours worked does not meet the state minimum hourly wage, his or her employer must make up the difference, and failing to do so constitutes wage theft.
Even if a worker has not clocked into work yet or has already clocked out, his or her employer must track any additional hours worked, including travel time in some cases, and pay the employee accordingly. Mandatory “off the clock” work is unlawful if it is not properly compensated, and it is an archetypal example of wage theft.
Employers can legally deduct expenses for certain work-related equipment from the wages they pay to workers. However, deductions that result in a worker receiving less than the minimum hourly wage or are meant as a punitive measure are unlawful.
Through a successful lawsuit, an employer who engaged in wage theft can be held financially responsible for the backpay he or she owes the employee who filed suit. In particularly egregious cases, a wage theft lawyer in Cleveland may be able to help multiple workers who all experienced wage theft from the same employer start a class action lawsuit against that company or individual.
In certain situations, additional damages may be available as well. For instance, an employer found to have committed a minimum wage violation may end up owing treble damages to affected workers, which means those workers could recover up to three times the value of the backpay their employer owes them.
Wage theft is an extremely serious issue across the United States that has only recently begun to get some of the mass media attention it deserves. You deserve to be paid fairly for the hours you put in at work, and any employer who fails to provide you the compensation you earned should be held accountable for his or her misconduct.
A Cleveland wage theft lawyer can discuss your situation and review possible legal options with you during a confidential consultation. Call Tittle & Perlmuter today to schedule yours.