Many workers today do not receive proper pay for their work. This is called wage theft, which is illegal. A lawyer can help you obtain the pay you are owed from your current or previous employer. You are entitled to unpaid wages whether you are paid in cash or by check. You are entitled to unpaid wages regardless of your immigration status.
Under federal and state law, workers must be paid the minimum wage. In New Jersey from February 2, 2019, the minimum wage is $15 per hour. In New York City in 2019, employees of non-fast food businesses with 10 or fewer employees are entitled to the minimum wage of $13.50 per hour, and employees of non-fast food businesses with 11 or more employees are entitled to the minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
The law also requires that if an employee works more than 40 hours in a week, they must be paid one-and-a-half times their regular hourly wage rate for every hour worked over 40 hours in a week. For example, if a worker works 45 hours in a week and their regular hourly wage rate is $10.00 per hour, they must be paid $15.00 per hour for the extra five hours.
Some employers try to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime pay by paying you the same amount every day or every week, regardless of how many hours you work. Most employees who are paid in this way believe that they are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week. This is not true. Most employees are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay, despite what employers might tell them.
Restaurant workers, including waiters, busboys, kitchen staff and delivery workers, construction laborers, landscape laborers, car wash workers, factory workers, warehouse workers and nail salon workers are often unlawfully cheated out of the wages they are owed.
Some employers also illegally steal workers’ tips. Employees must be paid their own tips. Managers may not take part of your tips to pay themselves or others, such as kitchen staff or delivery workers.
Minimum wage laws protect every employee, even if they receive tips as part of their wages. However, employers are allowed to pay less than minimum wage to tipped workers, but only if those workers earn enough tips to make up the difference. This is called a “tip credit.”
Also, some employers require employees to perform additional work such as taking out garbage, cleaning floors, bathrooms, windows, etc. without pay. For instance, some employers tell employees to “clock out” or “punch out” after their shift ends but still make them perform this type of cleaning work. Sometimes employers dock employees for breaks that are not taken. For example, the employer may say you have 30 minutes deducted from your paycheck for lunch each day, but keep you so busy you can only take five minutes for lunch. These things are illegal under state and federal law. Your employer cannot require you to perform work without being compensated at least the minimum wage.
It is a good idea to speak to a labor lawyer if you think you and your coworkers have not been paid properly.