Wage theft is a serious crime and workers should know their rights when it comes to fair compensation for work. Each state has a department of labor or regulating department that oversees the state’s minimum wage, overtime rules, break rules, and frequency in which employees are paid. While one may think that employers would simply pay their employees for wages earned, that is unfortunately not always the case. Below are some common examples of wage theft as reported by Americans across the country.

Working Late Without Compensation

One common form of wage theft is not paying an employee for additional hours they have worked beyond a regular shift. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work in a retail establishment from 12 a.m. to 6 p.m., but at 6 p.m. there is a long line at the cash register so the employee stays to help bag items or answer customers’ questions until 6:30 p.m. while off the clock, the employee should be compensated for that time. Though 30 minutes may not sound like much, it can really add up over weeks, months, and years.

Not Being Paid Overtime

Another common form of wage theft is not paying employees overtime that is due to them. Each state has different laws regarding overtime, but generally any hours worked over 40 hours in a week should be paid at time and a half. In some states, any hours worked over 8 hours per day are subject to overtime. Many employers feel as if they can skip the overtime because the employee is being paid something, or they make the assumption that the employee does not know their rights. When determining overtime, it is important to know what each state’s workweek is—most typically Sunday through Saturday.

Not Being Reimbursed For Travel Expenses

Employees are responsible for providing and paying for their own transportation to and from work, but if an employee is asked to go somewhere for the company while on the clock or before or after their shift, they should be paid for their time and for travel expenses. These travel expenses could be cab fare, public transportation reimbursement, or reimbursement for mileage driven in a car. Sometimes employers feel they don’t have to pay travel expenses and use excuses like “it was on the way home” or “he was already going to Target so I asked him to pick up a few things.” However, the laws are very clear: all hours worked should be paid and travel expenses should be reimbursed.

Working During Breaks or Not Being Given Proper Breaks

All states have clearly defined laws regarding the frequency in which employees are to be given breaks. Whether the break is paid or unpaid is of no relevance. Some employers fail to give their employees their legally required breaks, or try to get around break laws by asking employees to work during their paid or unpaid breaks.

Each state has different procedures for employees to file for and report wage theft. Some states have minimum amounts an employee must be shorted in order to file a claim, but other states have no restrictions. In some cases, you may need to seek out a legal professional in order to receive wages you have been shorted.


Hank Chaplin is a freelance writer based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hank writes on various topics, but he is principally interested in law; for those in need of high quality legal assistance he recommends that readers visit http://www.yourmesotheliomalawfirm.com.

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