I’ve seen 9 common tricks employers use to reduce employee paychecks to save money. They’re all illegal, and employees victimized by them have powerful rights under the law. Not only can employees recover what they’ve lost – up to three years’ worth – but they can also often recover double what they should have been paid. On top of that, in almost all cases the employer must pay the employee’s attorneys’ fees for filing the claim.
Often these violations are intentional and affect everyone. Employees lose lots of money this way. Your employer might have you do prep work before clocking in or after clocking out. They’ll give you laptops and smartphones, and invite you directly or indirectly to work from home, on vacation, or on nights and weekends…..but won’t pay you for this time. Some employers falsely claim that employees aren’t eligible for overtime. So they’ll just pay “straight time,” not time-and-a-half, for work that exceeds forty hours in a week.
Some employers will go so far as to label employees as “independent contractors” and issue IRS Form 1099 instead of a W-2. Independent contractors are not entitled to overtime pay, so the employer again avoids paying what is owed.
The law has some powerful weapons for employees who’ve been cheated. First, if you fall into this group, you can recover unpaid wages and overtime as far back as three years. It doesn’t matter if you still work there or not. Second, you can file suit immediately; there is no waiting period. Third, you’re entitled to all unpaid wages, all unpaid overtime, and if the employer’s violation is intentional – which it often is – you can seek double the amount you’re owed. And when I sue for wage and hour violations, I also usually require that the employer pay my fees and costs, so my clients keep the full amounts owed them. You don’t need scientific proof of your hours. Courts understand that if you worked off the clock, you wouldn’t have records. You can testify from your memory that you averaged a certain number of hours a week in overtime, or worked an average of X hours a day off the clock.
In one case I handled, employees who no longer worked for the company, and who had no records, testified that they were required to work about an hour a day after clocking out. With a three-year “look-back” period and a doubling of their claims, they recovered between $15,000.00 and $40,000.00 each.
Your employer is violating your rights:
- If you perform work off the clock;
- If your employer adjusts your time sheet to show less than the actual hours you worked;
- If computers automatically clock you out for breaks and lunch, whether you take them or not;
- If you are denied overtime because it was not approved in advance by your manager or supervisor even though you worked overtime hours;
- If you are only paid straight time for more than 40 hours in a week;
- If you are told to shift overtime hours from one pay period to another, so you don’t log more than 40 hours, or if you are given comp time instead of overtime pay (because private employers are forbidden from doing this);
- If you are paid less than minimum wage;
- If you are called an “independent contractor” even though you report to the same employer every day. This deception is common among barber shops, truck drivers, home health aides and construction workers, to mention just a few;
- If you are not being paid for waiting or “on call” time. Such time counts as hours worked when your time is controlled by the employer and you are unable to use the time effectively for your own activities.
There is nothing worse than working for an employer that doesn’t play fair with your paycheck. If your employer falls into this category, don’t be shy about taking action. You have some incredibly powerful tools at your fingertips.