Let's face it.
Chances are your job probably isn't all that fun. You work long hours. You deal with horrible bosses/customers/co-workers. You don't get paid what you're worth. But do you know what sucks even more than working in an unfulfilling and pointless job?
Working at a job that actually TAKES money out of your pocket.
Unfortunately, that is the reality that approximately 68% of all workers in New York City experience on a weekly basis. It's called "wage theft" and $50 BILLION of it happens nationally every year to workers like you. Even worse, many workers don't even realize that it is happening.
Here are the five most common ways someone becomes a victim of wage theft.
1) Hiding What Your Pay Is/How Many Hours You Worked
In New York, all employees are entitled to receive a written wage notice when they start working. This notice must state the particulars of how the employer is going to pay you, like what your wages are, what day you're going to be paid, etc. Employers need to give you this written notice so that there is no ambiguity regarding how much you are going to earn at the position.
The wage notice looks like this:
And, employees are also entitled to receive a statement of earnings (commonly known as a paystub) with every payment of wages. This paystub must accurately state all hours worked, the wages you earned, and the deductions which were made. Employers need to give you this notice so that you know precisely how your wages were calculated in a particular week.
These two types of documents are required so that there is total transparency in how and why you are being paid the wages you get each week, they are relatively easy to give, and employers that fail to provide them can be subject to steep penalties.
So if you're not receiving them, you should be immediately skeptical about whether you are receiving all of the money you are supposed to.
In New York, "employees" are a specific type of worker who performs the work of the employer. For example, a supermarket has cashiers to facilitate its main job in selling food to people - the cashiers would be considered "employees". "Employees" are protected by certain labor laws, guaranteeing them, among other things, a minimum wage and overtime.
"Independent contractors", on the other hand, perform work for the employer. If a supermarket hired a plumber to fix its toilet, that plumber would be an "independent contractor" since the supermarket likely isn't in the business of selling the use of their toilet. "Independent contractors" are not protected by any labor laws and may be paid whatever the independent contractor agrees to work for.
The differences between an "employee" and an "independent contractor" can be very hard to define. If you are considered by your job to be an "independent contractor", you should really spend some time figuring out whether your job has properly classified you as one.
Pertinent factors include:
If you're considered an "independent contractor" but do not have the freedom to, say, work for your employers' competitors or set your own hours, you may be misclassified and not receiving the protections you deserve as an "employee".
3) Paying An Inappropriate Salary
As a general matter, employees are paid by the hour no less than the minimum wage as well as time and a half after 40 hours in a week. However, some people are not paid by the hour, but instead they receive a salary to pay for all of the hours they work in a week. Since they're paid a flat rate by the week, these salaried employees do not need to be paid the minimum wage or overtime.
But a job cannot simply waive a magic wand and transform you from an hourly employee into a salaried one. Instead, there are two specific requirements that your employer must comply with before they can pay you a flat rate for all of the time you work in a week.
First off, the job you primarily do must be considered "exempt". While there are several different types of exemptions, the most common types are:
Further, these "exempt" functions must be your "primary" duty. If you spent 10 minutes a day balancing your employer's books, but the rest of the time, you're working a cash register, your employer can't just call you an accountant and not pay you for every hour you work.
The second requirement for your employer to meet is that you must make enough money under the law. The precise salary threshold varies in New York from county to county. But, in five boroughs of New York City, employees working in executive or administrative positions must make no less than $1,012.00/week.
New York does not have its own salary threshold for professional positions, so workers in those fields must meet the federal threshold of $450.00/week. This threshold is true as of the date of this entry, but the federal government is working to increase this threshold to $679.00/week, so stay tuned.
What does all of this legal mumbo-jumbo mean? If you're a "salaried" worker, but your "primary" job does not meet both of these requirements, you must be paid hourly, must receive at least the minimum wage for all hours you work, and must receive time and a half after 40 hours. Anything different means you are not being paid everything you've earned.
4) Not Counting Hours Worked
As discussed, unless you're salaried, you must be paid for every hour you work. Not paid according to the schedule you had, mind you, but rather the specific time you, in fact, put in. Employers are required by law to record all of the hours their employees work.
One of the easiest ways an employer can steal your wages is simply by not counting some of the hours you work each week. There are common ways employers do this without their employees realizing it.
5) Unauthorized Deductions
In New York, only certain authorized deductions may be taken from an employee's wages. This requires employers to not only (1) refrain from directly deducting anything not explicitly authorized from an employee's wages, but must also (2) refrain from indirectly causing a deduction from an employee's wages by making the employee pay for costs incurred while performing the job. Should an employee incur costs to perform their job, the employer must reimburse them.
The following is a list of common unauthorized deductions:
If any job you have had in the last six years unlawfully took your wages, you may be entitled to recover money. If these five things sound familiar to your situation, or if you otherwise suspect that your job is not treating you fairly, please call (914) 222-5786 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free consultation to speak with an experienced wage and hour attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you get you what you're owed.
Don't be a victim.
You Deserve More.