Wage Theft

Helping Wisconsin Employees Recover Lost & Unpaid Wages

Attorneys Experienced in Winning Back Worker Wages

Employers who do not pay their employees according to the law are engaging in wage theft by stealing money from their employees. Wage theft may be purposeful or accidental; either way, employers owe employees back wages when wage theft is discovered. We specialize in wage theft identification and recovery and can help you decide whether you have been robbed of your wages.

Typical Examples of Wage Theft

Wage theft can occur in many ways, but some situations are very common in the Wisconsin workplace. Take a look at the classic wage theft scenarios and see how they compare to your own story.

#1 Employers Do Not Pay for All Hours Worked

When employers require their employers to perform certain tasks without compensation, this is wage theft. For example, an employer who requires employees to attend a pre-shift meeting, change into protective clothing on the employer’s premises, or travel between work sites during the course of the work day without pay is engaging in wage theft. See our page on “Off-the-Clock Work” for more examples of this type of wage theft.

#2 Employers Avoid Paying Overtime by Calling Employees “Independent Contractors”

Many employees think they cannot get overtime pay because they are a 1099 employee or an independent contractor. But employees who are misclassified as independent contractors may be entitled to overtime wages for hours worked over forty. Under federal law, multiple factors are reviewed in determining if an individual is an employee or an independent contractor. These factors consider whether the work being performed is an important part of the employer’s business, the permanency of the relationship, whether the tools used to perform the work are owned by the individual or by the employer, the amount of control the employer exerts over the individual, and the individual’s opportunity for profit or loss based on their work. Construction workers, sub-contractors, landscape workers, and exotic dancers are often misclassified as independent contractors.

#3 Employers Deducting for Meal Breaks

In some industries, employers automatically deduct a 30 minute unpaid meal period from an employee’s pay during each shift they work. But under Wisconsin law, this is only permitted if the employee is actually able to take a full, 30-minute break. This means if a worker is not allowed to leave the employer’s premises during their lunch break, they must be compensated. Or if an employee is required to remain on call during their break, and is subject to frequent interruptions, they may be entitled to compensation for that meal break. See our blog post on meal break deductions for more information.

#4 Employers Change Payroll Records to Avoid Paying Employees

Some employers resort to time shaving (changing employees’ start and end times) to pay employees for less than the full amount of time they worked. With a few clicks of the mouse, employers can modify electronic time records to make it appear an employee worked less time than they actually worked. Other employers simply pay the employee less time than what is recorded on the employee’s time card. Though the amount of time is usually small enough that an employee may not notice, over time the amount of unpaid work can really add up.

#5 Failure to Properly Calculate Overtime Wages

Employees who are not exempt from overtime wages and work more than 40 hours in a workweek are entitled to pay of one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40. But some employers fail to properly calculate the overtime rate and as a result, underpay workers. If an employee earns commissions, bonuses, shift differentials, or other wages on top of their hourly rate of pay, those earnings must be included in the overtime rate used to calculate their overtime wages. Failure to include all earnings in calculating overtime wages is another form of wage theft.

#6 Rounding Policies Can Shortchange Employees

Employers can legally round employee’s start and end times to the nearest tenth or quarter of an hour. However, when they do so, they must do so in a fair manner. An employer cannot always round an employee’s hours of work down – if an employee leaves work at 3:53 in the afternoon, the employee must be paid through 4:00.

#7 Misclassification of Salaried Employees
Employees often think that because they are paid a salary, they are not entitled to overtime compensation. However, overtime pay exemptions include both a salary basis test and a duties test, so in addition to being paid a salary, an employee’s actual job duties must meet the narrow exemption. If an employee’s job duties do not meet the exemption’s test, a salaried employee would still be entitled to overtime pay.

For example, Bob is a full-time cashier at a grocery store and is paid a salary of $30,000/year. Bob has no management duties. Even though Bob is paid an annual salary, his job duties do not qualify him as exempt from overtime pay. Even though he makes an annual salary, his employer MUST pay him time and a half for every hour he works over forty hours in a workweek.

# 8 Managers Taking Tips Earned by Employees

Tips are the property of the employee who earns them. While some tip pooling arrangements between tipped employees are legal, it is not legal for the employer to keep tips earned by tipped employees. This means managers or owners cannot be included in a tip pool, and employers cannot require employees to turn over their tips.

Hawks Quindel’s Attorneys will Fight Wage Theft on Your Behalf

If you think you have experienced wage theft under state or federal law, Hawks Quindel’s wage and hour team will provide you with a free consultation to answer your questions and evaluate your potential claim.

Please contact Hawks Quindel if you would like to discuss your wage rights under federal FLSA or Wisconsin wage and hour laws. Please call a Madison wage attorney directly at (608) 257-0040 or a Milwaukee wage attorney at (414) 271-8650, or email us via our Contact Page.

Attorneys Experienced in Winning Back Worker Wages

Employers who do not pay their employees according to the law are engaging in wage theft by stealing money from their employees. Wage theft may be purposeful or accidental; either way, employers owe employees back wages when wage theft is discovered. We specialize in wage theft identification and recovery and can help you decide whether you have been robbed of your wages.

Typical Examples of Wage Theft

Wage theft can occur in many ways, but some situations are very common in the Wisconsin workplace. Take a look at the classic wage theft scenarios and see how they compare to your own story.

Wage Theft Example #1: Employers Do Not Pay for All Hours Worked

When employers require their employers to perform certain tasks without compensation, this is wage theft. For example, an employer who requires employees to attend a pre-shift meeting, change into protective clothing on the employer’s premises, or travel between work sites during the course of the work day without pay is engaging in wage theft. See our page on “Off-the-Clock Work” for more examples of this type of wage theft.

Wage Theft Example #2: Employers Avoid Paying Overtime by Calling Employees “Independent Contractors”

Many employees think they cannot get overtime pay because they are a 1099 employee or an independent contractor. But employees who are misclassified as independent contractors may be entitled to overtime wages for hours worked over forty. Under federal law, multiple factors are reviewed in determining if an individual is an employee or an independent contractor. These factors consider whether the work being performed is an important part of the employer’s business, the permanency of the relationship, whether the tools used to perform the work are owned by the individual or by the employer, the amount of control the employer exerts over the individual, and the individual’s opportunity for profit or loss based on their work. Construction workers, sub-contractors, landscape workers, and exotic dancers are often misclassified as inde

#3 Employers Deducting for Meal Breaks

In some industries, employers automatically deduct a 30 minute unpaid meal period from an employee’s pay during each shift they work. But under Wisconsin law, this is only permitted if the employee is actually able to take a full, 30-minute break. This means if a worker is not allowed to leave the employer’s premises during their lunch break, they must be compensated. Or if an employee is required to remain on call during their break, and is subject to frequent interruptions, they may be entitled to compensation for that meal break. See our blog post on meal break deductions for more information.

#4 Employers Change Payroll Records to Avoid Paying Employees

Some employers resort to time shaving (changing employees’ start and end times) to pay employees for less than the full amount of time they worked. With a few clicks of the mouse, employers can modify electronic time records to make it appear an employee worked less time than they actually worked. Other employers simply pay the employee less time than what is recorded on the employee’s time card. Though the amount of time is usually small enough that an employee may not notice, over time the amount of unpaid work can really add up.

Wage Theft Example #5: Failure to Properly Calculate Overtime Wages

Employees who are not exempt from overtime wages and work more than 40 hours in a workweek are entitled to pay of one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40. But some employers fail to properly calculate the overtime rate and as a result, underpay workers. If an employee earns commissions, bonuses, shift differentials, or other wages on top of their hourly rate of pay, those earnings must be included in the overtime rate used to calculate their overtime wages. Failure to include all earnings in calculating overtime wages is another form of wage theft.

Wage Theft Example #6: Rounding Policies Can Shortchange Employees

Employers can legally round employee’s start and end times to the nearest tenth or quarter of an hour. However, when they do so, they must do so in a fair manner. An employer cannot always round an employee’s hours of work down – if an employee leaves work at 3:53 in the afternoon, the employee must be paid through 4:00.

Wage Theft Example #7: Misclassification of Salaried Employees
Employees often think that because they are paid a salary, they are not entitled to overtime compensation. However, overtime pay exemptions include both a salary basis test and a duties test, so in addition to being paid a salary, an employee’s actual job duties must meet the narrow exemption. If an employee’s job duties do not meet the exemption’s test, a salaried employee would still be entitled to overtime pay.

For example, Bob is a full-time cashier at a grocery store and is paid a salary of $30,000/year. Bob has no management duties. Even though Bob is paid an annual salary, his job duties do not qualify him as exempt from overtime pay. Even though he makes an annual salary, his employer MUST pay him time and a half for every hour he works over forty hours in a workweek.

Wage Theft Example # 8: Managers Taking Tips Earned by Employees

Tips are the property of the employee who earns them. While some tip pooling arrangements between tipped employees are legal, it is not legal for the employer to keep tips earned by tipped employees. This means managers or owners cannot be included in a tip pool, and employers cannot require employees to turn over their tips.

Hawks Quindel’s Attorneys will Fight Wage Theft on Your Behalf

If you think you have experienced wage theft under state or federal law, Hawks Quindel’s wage and hour team will provide you with a free consultation to answer your questions and evaluate your potential claim.

Please contact Hawks Quindel if you would like to discuss your wage rights under federal FLSA or Wisconsin wage and hour laws. Please call a Madison wage attorney directly at (608) 257-0040 or a Milwaukee wage attorney at (414) 271-8650, or email us via our Contact Page.

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