Every year, millions of employees across America fall victim to wage theft. Generally, wage theft occurs when an employer fails to pay workers the total wages to which they are entitled. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2020, over $3 billion in stolen wages was retrieved on behalf of American workers. Fortunately, if you are a victim of wage theft, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you are paid what is rightfully yours. In this article, we discuss forms of wage theft in New Jersey and what you can do if you are a victim of wage theft to ensure you are paid what is rightfully yours.
Forms of Wage Theft in New Jersey
There are various forms of wage theft in New Jersey, some evident and others more challenging to spot. The following are some of the common forms of wage theft in New Jersey:
Failure to Pay the Minimum Wage
Minimum wage is the minimum amount an employer is supposed to pay a worker. Often, the minimum wage is broken down on an hourly basis. Currently, the minimum wage in New Jersey is $14.13 per hour for most workers. If an employer pays employees less than the required minimum wage, it is a form of wage theft.
Failure to Pay Overtime
Unless an exemption applies, if an employee works for over 40 hours a week, for every excess hour, an employer must pay the employee wages at a rate of at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly wage. If an employer fails to abide by this rule, they are guilty of wage theft.
If an employer withholds payment because of a shortage in the cash register, they are guilty of wage theft. Also, if an employer withholds an employee’s wages because the employee damaged or failed to return company property, it is considered wage theft. New Jersey employers are only permitted to withhold or divert part of an employee’s paycheck under the circumstances listed under N.J.S.A. 34:11-4.4.
In New Jersey, the law exempts independent contractors from the state’s minimum wage laws, meaning that independent contractors are not entitled to the $14.13/hour minimum wage. Some employees purposefully classify regular employees as independent contractors to save money. If an employer does this, it is considered wage theft.
What to Do After Wage Theft Happens
The following are the steps to take if you are a victim of wage theft;
- Talk to your employer and give them a chance to correct their mistake if their failure to pay your full wages was an honest mistake.
- If your employer fails to fix the issue, speak to the HR manager or another supervisor.
- If your complaints are not handled, it may be time to speak to an employment lawyer.
It is vital that you maintain records of all the occasions wage theft occurred and correspondences between you and your employer or supervisor. These records can come in handy if you decide to take legal action.
Legal Help is Available
Have you been unjustly denied your total wages? Contact our skilled New Jersey employment lawyer at Trabosh Law Firm for legal guidance.