How to Spot the Signs of Wage Theft in Your Workplace

One of the issues with wage theft is that it may take many different forms. Some are evident, while others are more difficult to discern. Broadly, wage theft occurs when your company fails to pay you, the employee, what you are owed. It is sometimes obvious, such as when an employer fails to pay overtime and instead pays the regular rate of pay. Unfortunately, wage theft may be difficult for employees to detect, and tens or hundreds of employees might be robbed of their hard work and labor. From 2017 to 2020, a total of $3 billion in stolen wages was recovered, which is only a fraction of the full cost of wage theft.

What is Wage Theft?

Wage theft is a relatively recent word that refers to a set of employer activities that result in workers not getting the pay to which they are legally entitled. The word recognizes that when employees are not paid the minimum wage or overtime, their employers are committing a manner of theft.

Common Forms of Wage Theft

  • Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) stipulates that employees are entitled to overtime compensation. Independent contractors and exempt workers are the only two exemptions. Exempt workers are employees paid a salary above the minimum weekly requirement. Non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime compensation when their workweek exceeds 40 hours. Employers that violate this are guilty of wage theft.

  • Illegal Deductions

The vast majority of businesses deduct the salary as compensation for employees who violate company policies. On the other hand, some do this for little or invented offenses. When these deductions add up to a total figure lower than the minimum wage, the employer may be accused of committing wage theft.

  • Minimum Wage

The bare minimum amount that an employer is required to pay an employee for their services is referred to as the “minimum wage.” Most of the time, the minimum salary is broken down not just on a weekly but also an hourly basis, and the job description and the post-classification determine this. The objective of the minimum wage is to safeguard the economic depression of the labor force and to maintain the standard of life of the people. On the other hand, it has been observed that this restriction is not maintained in contractual projects, and workers are paid far less than this. Paying workers less than the stipulated minimum wage is a form of wage theft.

  • Employee Misclassification

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), independent contractors are not entitled to the same benefits or protections as regular employees. Freelancers and other independent contractors are not eligible for benefits such as the minimum wage, overtime pay, or employee insurance. When a company purposefully classifies a regular employee as an independent contractor for the purpose of receiving tax savings, this practice is known as misclassification. Indirectly, this practice leads to wage theft.

  • Working Off The Clock

Some enterprises require their workers to report to work on holidays or weekends, and the majority of the time, the demand is warranted. An employee is eligible for supplemental compensation whenever they report for work on such occasions. Wage theft occurs when an employer fails to deliver the appropriate remuneration to their employees.

  • Full Wage Theft

Full wage theft is the most flagrant kind of wage theft and happens when an employer either fails to pay for labor done or refuses to pay for work done. Both regular workers and independent contractors are included in its scope of application. It is possible for this to occur when an employer demands workers to put in extra hours, work through their breaks, arrive early, or stay later than they were scheduled.

What to Do if You Suspect Wage Theft

If you believe you’re not being adequately compensated for your labor, the first step is to speak with your employer. If the problem results from an honest error or a technology bug, a responsible employer will attempt to rectify it. If they are unable or unwilling to fix the issue, consult with the person in charge of human resources or another management. Keep a record of any occasions where you feel wage theft has happened, as well as any discussion with your employer. These documents will come in handy if you need to escalate the matter.

If you’ve requested several times and your problem still needs to be handled, it may be time to seek assistance from someone outside your organization, i.e., California Labor Commissioner. You must also provide any tangible proof or documents that might support your claim. Finally, you should always be confident to seek assistance, since your employer cannot discriminate against you or fire you if it is discovered that you have filed a complaint.

The Importance of Having Documentation

Keeping a detailed record of your working hours is critical to back up your pay-claim. It will aid in determining the amount of compensation you are entitled to and the rate of pay.

It is also necessary to present pay stubs to demonstrate the payment that you did receive. This number and pay rate may be compared to the actual hours worked and the amount you were meant to be paid.

If you received any bounced paychecks from your employer, you must provide them along with why the check could not be processed.

Furthermore, if you have any paperwork from your employer that guarantees your hours, compensation, perks, or any other information pertinent to your income, you should include it in your claim. This helps you establish that your employer did not keep their commitments.

Filing a Claim With The California Labor Commissioner

If you have been the victim of pay theft, you can register a wage claim online with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. The more information you provide, the higher the efficiency of your claim procession. A wage claim initiates the collection procedure for unpaid salaries or benefits. Wage claims can be submitted online, by email, postal mail, or in person. The labor laws of California protect all workers, regardless of immigrant status.


Wage theft refers to any sort of illicit withdrawal or reduction of employee perks or wages by employers. This has been a serious concern in America since it has affected employee and company productivity and efficiency. This article has discussed the most prevalent signs of wage theft and how to file a wage claim.

By gaining a deeper awareness of wage theft, you have a greater grasp of your rights as an employee. Everyone has the right to a just wage. Consult an attorney or call at 916-877-4227 if you believe you or your coworkers are victims of this crime. Asbill Law Group will assist you in understanding the issue.