Have You Experienced Wage Theft?

Workers lose millions of dollars every year due to illegal wage theft by employers

For many years, in an effort to become leaner and "more efficient," employers have campaigned against a dreaded problem that was supposed to be costing them dearly: time theft. This occurred when employees were on the clock, but inactive. Employers often have indignantly complained they were paying workers for eight hours of work, so they expected eight hours of production.

Turns out that within the U.S. economy, the much larger problem may be wage theft, which occurs when employers fail to pay workers for time on the job, misclassify them in order to pay them less per hour or avoid overtime payments at all.

Even in Washington, D.C.

You would think that Washington D.C. would be better off than many locations, given the numerous federal jobs, which are much more strictly regulated than private sector jobs. In addition, the Department of Labor and such regulatory agencies as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which oversee many job and workplace protections afforded to workers are headquartered here. That proximity should help to ensure workers here are protected.

So, it may come as something of a surprise to find that workers would be subject to wage theft violations not just in Washington, but within the U.S. Capitol itself. It is more than a little ironic that the lawmakers, who draft many of the laws that govern the workplace, were eating food in their own cafeteria, cooked and served by workers who were subject to the wage theft violations.

$1 million in back pay

The Department of Labor recently announced the private contractors who operate the Senate cafeteria food service had underpaid those workers approximately $1 million dollars. The violations involved misclassifications that allowed them to pay workers for lower-wage jobs within the cafeteria.

The employer issued an innocent-sounding statement noting, "The misclassifications were largely attributable to administrative technicalities related to our Associates' evolving day-to-day work responsibilities, which in some cases crossed multiple job categories." It is unlikely such "administrative technicalities" would occur if instead of cafeteria workers, the employees in questions where senior management.

Sadly, for employees working for private employers, such "administrative technicalities" are a day-to-day part of their work. Employers round time cards in a way favorable to the employer, they insist on employees working off the clock or short them on overtime.

Misclassification?

Or they misclassify them as independent contractors and avoid the cost of payroll taxes, workers' compensation and overtime. The workers in the Senate Cafeteria were "lucky" in that their pay was governed by federal regulations that demand the contractors pay well above minimum wage.

Had these jobs been in the private sector, the employer likely could move them about with "evolving day-to-day work responsibilities," without ever needing to concern itself about adjusting their pay for the classifications. This would likely occur because they would probably all be earning the minimum wage.

Speak to an employment law attorney with questions

Employees are often concerned that if they complain and attempt to enforce their rights, they will be subject to retaliation by their employer or to termination. If you believe you have been subjected to wage theft, misclassification or any other violation of federal employment laws, speaking with an experienced attorney from Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C. can help identify which laws may have been violated and protect your rights under the law.