Wage Theft: Millions Lost to Unlawful Employment Practices Each Year

June 23, 2017 – Each year, thousands of Minnesota workers lose millions of dollars to wage theft by employers. Whether an employer requires employees to log into their computer five minutes before their shift and not pay them, misclassifies workers as independent contractors to avoid overtime pay and deny benefits, or pays less than minimum wage, employees of all socio-economic background are at risk of wage theft. Low-wage workers are the most vulnerable. Often, these workers are women or people of color and are paid less than minimum wage.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its Minnesota equivalent offer many protections to employees including minimum wage standards, overtime pay requirements and protection against employee misclassification. However, many violations go unreported, either out of fear of retaliation or a lack of knowledge about employee rights. Further, state and federal governments often lack the resources necessary to investigate and hold these employers accountable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 3 million workers in Minnesota. At present, there are only six wage and hour investigators with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and another nine federal investigators assigned to Minnesota by the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor. (See article here.) That means there is only one person available to investigate state and federal FLSA violations for every 200,000 Minnesota workers.  

What is wage theft?
Wage theft is the unlawful practice of not paying workers the total wages they are legally entitled to. Wage theft violations include, but are not limited to:

  • Minimum wage: Paying workers less than the minimum legal requirement
  • Overtime: Failing to pay overtime to nonexempt employees
  • Meal Breaks: Failing to give workers legally required meal breaks
  • Off-the-clock: Requiring employees to work before or after their shift without pay
  • Employee misclassification: Misclassifying workers as independent contractors to avoid minimum wage requirements and deny benefits provided to other employees.

The Minnesota Department of Labor estimates that 38,000 Minnesota workers lose nearly $12 million in income annually due to employer wage theft. (See article here.) Industries in which wage theft is most common include: restaurants, construction and janitorial/cleaning services.

How do I recover lost pay?
To report wage theft or to ask about your wage and hour rights, you should contact either the appropriate federal or state government agency or speak to a private attorney immediately. The federal agency responsible for investigating FLSA violations is the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Minnesota wage theft violations can be made to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The FLSA and the Minnesota FLSA have time limits for filing wage and hour claims and recovering lost pay. You should contact a government agency or lawyer immediately to report the violation and understand your rights.

Protect Your Wage and Hour Rights
If you believe your employer has failed to pay you for all hours worked, failed to pay overtime or committed other wage and hour violations, our Minneapolis employment lawyers want to hear from you. Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees and has substantial experience representing employees in wage and hour litigation. For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Act and your rights, contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.