Although commerce has slowly returned to some version of normal over the past few years, dynamics between employers and their workers continue to evolve. In Florida, lawmakers are working to clarify matters – at least from a legal standpoint – in an attempt to remove some of the confusion experienced in the 21st-century workplace.
What is wage theft?
Many factors contribute to the erosion of employer/worker relations, but none more than the feeling that companies are taking advantage of their workforces. A sometimes subtle but insidious practice that adds to that perception is wage theft.
This goes beyond simply shorting worker pay. Forcing customers to subsidize wages through tipping, shortening or denying lunch breaks, and failing to pay overtime are some of the ways that employers are cheating their staff out of fair compensation and a living wage.
It’s estimated that service workers and other traditionally low-paid workers are losing millions of dollars each year.
But, the problem isn’t relegated to those at the bottom of the corporate ladder. White-collar, salaried employees sometimes make far less than the federal minimum when you factor pay in relation to actual hours worked.
Many methods of shorting worker pay constitute clear violations of Florida’s wage and hour laws. But, what can workers do to protect themselves?
How to recognize wage theft
The average wage theft claim takes nearly two years to resolve, according to information from the Florida Department of Labor. An employee must be without pay for 14 days before they can even file a claim.
When you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. two weeks is a long time.
Some signs that an employer is cheating staff include:
- Paying with cash or a personal check
- Scheduling discrepancies in relation to actual hours on the job
- Deducting time for lunch and mandated rest breaks
- Failure to provide an itemized wage statement
How workers can protect themselves
The best way to protect oneself is to create a paper trail. Document actual hours worked, even of that means taking a photo of the time-in/time-out sheets and posted schedule. If the business uses a computerized payroll system, get a printout each day and at the end of the week. Track hours, take names, and gather any information needed to prove claims of wage theft.