Unless you are an unpaid volunteer, you are supposed to receive a fair wage for the work that you do. An employer must pay at least mandated minimum amounts plus overtime when earned.
Unfortunately, some job providers do not provide prompt or even lawful wages for their workers. When that happens, so do violations of federal and state laws.
Fortunately, workers do have administrative and legal avenues that they can pursue when they are not paid in full or even at all.
Five Kinds of Pay Violations
Many federal and state lawsuits against employers cite common themes of unlawful activity. There are five general ways that your employer might commit a pay violation. Those five violations are:
- Withholding pay and making deductions that you did not authorize
- Paying less than minimum wage
- Not paying overtime
- Docking your pay as punishment
- Not paying for regular work preparations
If your employer deducts money from your pay, it must be for authorized purposes. Taxes are a perfect example. The same goes for any benefits deductions, applicable union dues, or other costs that you authorize in advance.
Withholding money as punishment is illegal. If you are docked for breaking something or losing a sale, that would be an unlawful deduction.
Some unsavory job providers might withdraw money earmarked for taxes or other contributions. That money might never go toward what you agreed. That could leave you vulnerable if you become unemployed and your job never actually paid into the state’s unemployment fund.
Overtime and Unpaid Work Preparation
Many employers do not pay overtime as required by respective state laws. They might work people for more than eight hours in a single day or more than 40 hours for a week and not pay the overtime rate. That is unlawful, and so is requiring workers to regularly show up a few minutes early or stay late to do regular tasks while off the clock.
You might have an occupation that requires you to wear a uniform or gear that takes some time to put on prior to work. If you have to show up at work and change into your work outfit but are not paid for the time that it takes to do so, that could be an example of not paying you for time spent at work.
Even if it just adds 15 minutes to your day to change into and out of your work uniform, that is time spent at work. You should be paid for it, but some job providers might not see it that way. The same goes for any prework routines that take extra time at the workplace but for which your employer does not pay.
Federal Pay Protections for Workers
There are payroll protections at the federal and state level for Pennsylvania workers who are shortchanged on their wages. The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates minimum wage and overtime pay at the federal level.
The FSLA requires job providers to pay at least $7.25 per hour and overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 during the workweek. Many states and local units have minimum wage laws that require even more for hourly workers.
The FLSA also requires your employer to designate regular pay dates and abide by them. If your employer routinely misses pay dates, you could file a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor and a lawsuit in the federal court system.
Pennsylvania Pay Protections for Workers
Pennsylvania workers have state-level protection through the state’s Wage Payment and Collection Law. Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Labor Law Compliance enforces the pay provisions and other labor laws within the state.
The state law requires your employer to declare regular pay dates. It also gives your employer up to 15 days following the end of a pay period to pay you in full for the work you have done.
If your wages go unpaid and your employer does not pay up when you inform your supervisor of the problem, you could file a complaint with the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance. The bureau could investigate and require your employer to pay the correct wages immediately.
What if I Am a Salaried Worker?
The state and federal laws regarding minimum wage and overtime do not apply to salaried workers. A worker who is paid a salary accepts a regular payment for performing job duties.
If you are salaried and can do your job duties quickly, you could earn a relatively high amount of pay for the hours that you worked. If it takes a long time to do your job duties while on a salary, you might earn less than many other workers. You even could earn less than the minimum wage.
Salaried workers still are subject to pay protections and must be paid within 15 days of a pay period’s end. If an employer runs short on cash and does not have the money to pay all workers, the FLSA says the hourly workers have priority for wage payments.
But if an employer suddenly cuts off a salaried employee’s pay, that worker automatically becomes an hourly employee. As an hourly worker, you are subject to minimum wage and overtime laws at the federal and state levels.
What to Do if Your Wages Are Unpaid?
If do not get paid on your scheduled date, you should contact your immediate supervisor. If a payroll department or payroll manager has an open line for workers to use, you also should report the missed payment to whoever is in charge of the payroll.
There could be a simple explanation, such as the pay date was temporarily changed and you missed a notice about it. It also might have been missed because of a minor problem with the payroll system and a fix is in the works.
If it is the first time that you encountered the problem and you are unaware of others having similar issues, it very well might be a one-time issue. That is why it is important to give your employer the benefit of the doubt at first and go to your supervisor or payroll staff.
If there is a reasonable explanation and your employer remedies the matter right away, you likely have a good employer. If the problem persists and others have the same problem, then you should pursue other options.
How Bankruptcy Might Impact Pay?
Whether you are salaried or an hourly employee, if your employer declares bankruptcy, your wages are considered highly essential and get top priority. Unlike a creditor, your employer cannot simply write off the debt. If any funds or assets remain, your pay as well as that of your coworkers should be covered as soon as possible.
If your employer unexpectedly goes out of business and did not stay current on unemployment insurance payments, qualifying workers still receive it. The state will not punish workers for the wrongdoings of their employers. That applies to unemployment compensation.
Potential Legal Claims for Unpaid Wages
If you are stiffed on pay by your employer and did not get a swift resolution by notifying your supervisor, you can file state and federal claims for relief. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Bureau of Law Compliance can investigate and compel your employer to pay you, if possible.
Sometimes, employers underpay or do not pay several workers who are similarly situated. When two or more workers who are in similar situations are underpaid or not paid at all, a class action could be initiated against the employer.
The more employees shorted on pay, the more likely a class action lawsuit would apply. However, if you are just among a small handful of workers who got shorted on pay, you likely would have to file individual federal and state lawsuits for relief.
Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C., Fight to Ensure Workers Are Properly Paid
If your employer shorted you on pay, the Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C., can help. We will work to secure the compensation for which you are entitled, ensuring that your legal rights are always protected. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.