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One of the greatest cons that exists in this world is how corporations get away with theft. If you go in to a store and steal an item of clothing that costs $50, you will get arrested and charged with retail theft. Yet employers steal billions from employees with wage theft every year and the worst thing that can happen to them is having to pay it back. And in most cases nothing happens at all.
So what is wage theft?
It’s pretty simple. It’s when your employer doesn’t pay you something you’ve earned. It happens with employers big and small and in so many different ways. Here are some real examples in Illinois that we’ve been able to help with:
- A restaurant was only paying servers their tips and never giving a paycheck.
- Automatically taking out 30-60 minutes a work day for a meal break even when the employee isn’t actually taking one. In Illinois breaks must be at least 30 minutes to be permissibly unpaid.
- Underpayment of work. Some employers, often restaurants, will provide what is called shift pay. Meaning they will say we are going to pay you $X per shift. Often it’s something like three hours of pay even if you are there 6-8 hours. It’s very illegal.
- Non-payment for work off the clock. Many employers will ask you to do work before or after you’ve clocked in. This could be responding to work related calls or emails after hours. It could be mandatory work before you clock in. It could be for work related travel time. If you don’t get paid or overtime then they are stealing from you.
- Off the clock straight time work. We see this a lot with landscapers or other jobs where they pay you cash but not overtime and don’t document your actual hours worked.
- Misclassification. Often workers are classified as independent contractors when that’s b.s. If the company has control over you, you are an employee. They do this to avoid paying taxes and to make it so they can pay you a flat rate for your work instead of following wage laws.
- “Boot up cases.” This happens a lot in call centers and other jobs that use computers. You have to “boot up” your computer before work can actually start. So maybe your shift pay starts at 9 a.m. but they also want you to work right at 9. So they require you to get your computer ready 5-10 minutes before but don’t pay you for that time.
- And of course there is tip theft which is one of the biggest. Employers will take pooled tips and give them to workers that shouldn’t get them like managers or take the tips for things like employee meals, charity events, etc. Even if they do nice things with it, it’s still your money and it’s still theft.
There are other examples too. Bottom line is that it’s illegal and they’ll never go to jail for it. But you can get this money back. If you’d like to speak with an employment lawyer in Chicago who can give you a free consultation, contact us any time to learn if you have a case and what steps can be taken.