Employers often require their workers to sign agreements promising not to engage in “time theft,” i.e., when workers do personal things, like making phone calls, while on the clock. Employers warn workers that they could face termination or other penalties for time theft. Other employers impose very intense productivity standards on workers, forcing them to manage an impossibly long list of tasks during every shift.
While some companies are preoccupied with preventing time theft, it has a minimal impact on an organization’s finances. However, wage theft by an employer is a serious issue that negatively impacts many workers. All too often, it goes unpunished unless the people affected seek justice in court.
Wage theft comes in many different forms
Consumer demand for new types of services has led to new means of depriving workers of their wages. In recent years, the demand for certain kinds of delivery services, including food and grocery delivery, has increased significantly. Companies have sought to tap into a network of delivery drivers without making wage commitments to them.
There are many ways that delivery service workers are treated unfairly by denying them hourly wages. Paying employees on a per-task basis rather than on an hourly basis is a common technique used by employers who try to avoid paying workers the required minimum wages.
Some companies misclassify workers by having them fill out tax paperwork as independent contractors but then treat them like employees. By misclassifying workers as independent contractors, companies avoid paying workers overtime compensation and deprive them of benefits like health insurance.
Other forms of wage theft involve a refusal to pay overtime wages. Some companies will go so far as to manipulate timeclock records so that they pay workers less than they have earned. All of these different forms of misconduct cost workers as much as $50 billion each year. In many cases, the lowest-paid workers in hourly positions are the ones who experience the most wage theft.
The courts can intervene
There are numerous state and federal laws that dictate employee rights and wage standards. Workers who can show that a company unlawfully denied them overtime pay or failed to provide minimum hourly wages based on current state and federal requirements could potentially seek the balance of the wages due and possibly even additional penalties from their employers.
Those hoping to hold a company accountable for wage theft will typically need professional help with the process, as it may turn into a protracted legal battle. Initiating wage theft claims can help workers get the pay they’ve earned and force companies to change their practices.