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What to Do if You Haven’t Been Paid the Wages You’ve Rightfully Earned

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 82.3 million workers aged 16 and older were paid at hourly rates in 2019. Among those individuals, 329,000 employees earned exactly the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and approximately 1.2 million earned wages below the federal minimum. When placed alongside survey data from the Economic Policy Institute that suggests that the total underpayment of wages to workers covered by state or federal minimum wage laws exceeds $15 billion each year, these statistics paint a very distressing picture of our nation. Especially at a time when workers paid at an hourly rate are consistently being deemed “essential,” minimum wage violations should be at the forefront of our priorities. Lost wages hurt more than just the affected employee and their family — they devastate our economy. 

Any failure to provide workers with the payment they are legally entitled to can be considered wage theft. This includes employer actions such as forcing their employees to work additional hours without providing overtime pay, requiring their employees to work through lunch breaks, or even something as simple as requiring their employees to answer work emails in their free time without counting it as time on the clock. In this article, we’ll discuss how to determine whether or not you are a victim of wage theft and how to proceed with receiving the wages you have rightfully earned. If you are currently working for an employer that is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it’s time to consult a Tampa wage and hour attorney to protect your rights and recover the money you deserve. 

Related: The Five Wage and Hour Laws Every Employee in Florida Needs to Know

How to Determine if You Are a Victim of Wage Theft

Under FLSA, you are entitled to earn at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for each hour you work. If you are currently being paid less than the federal minimum wage in the state of Florida, then your employer has committed wage theft. However, this is only one of the many potential wage violations. For example, if you are being paid over the federal minimum wage but your employer takes a specific amount of deductions that brings your wages below the required minimum, let’s say to cover employment expenses or satisfy a debt, then the employer has violated the rules of the FLSA. Other common wage violations can be divided into the following categories.

Unpaid Time/Hours Violations

Failing to provide payment for every hour worked is an immediate violation of federal law. One of the most common ways these workplace laws are violated is when an employer fails to compensate an employee for performing work tasks outside of their normal work hours. This includes any of the following:

  • Work performed during an employee’s lunch break
  • Required classes, training, or meetings that meet specific conditions
  • Waiting periods
  • Work performed during an employee’s rest break
  • On-call periods 
  • Sleep time
  • Travel time (if the commute is considered part of the job)
  • Work performed at the end or beginning of the day while the employee is “off the clock”

Vacation Time

While employers aren’t required by law to provide their employees with paid vacation time, those that choose to offer this benefit are subject to comply with state and federal laws on compensation. This means if you have vacation time accrued at the time of your termination, you should be compensated for this unused paid time off. Your employer also may not take away vacation time once it has been accrued. 

Related: Most Common Wage Violations

Your Employer Is Breaking the Law. Now What?

At this point, you’re aware that your employer is violating federal law and abusing your wage and hour rights. The first step would be to raise awareness of this issue internally by contacting the human resources (HR) department or payroll department. Typically, your company will have a procedure in place for bringing concerns like this to the attention of your employer. However, we recognize the main concern with this step — retaliation. When an employee comes forward to report a workplace violation, their employer may fire or demote them, reduce their hours, change their schedule, withhold payment, or harass them. These actions are not illegal but may be considered an act of discrimination. If you have been retaliated against regarding wage and hour violations in Florida, reach out to one of our Tampa wage and hour attorneys as soon as possible. 

Your next option will be to either file a wage claim or a lawsuit, depending on the specifics of your case. It’s of the utmost importance that you have a Tampa wage and hour attorney by your side throughout this process because they can determine the strength of your case, file a claim on your behalf, and seek the compensation you rightfully deserve for your unpaid wages. In the case that your employer’s wage policies violated the wage and hour rights of multiple employees, your attorney may also suggest that you combine your claims in a class action lawsuit. It’s simply not worth attempting to understand and compile all of the relevant information regarding your case on your own and ending up failing to receive the compensation you are legally entitled to. Partner with our team of qualified legal professionals today. 

If you would like to speak with a wage dispute lawyer in Tampa, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.