Tag Archives: Unpaid Wage Attorney

Getting Your Unpaid Wages Is a PROCESS

Before they retained us, many underpaid workers we represent had tried to get their unpaid wages by themselves and without an attorney. The workers tried to (1) get the wages directly from the employer, via complaining or negotiating; (2) filed a legal complaint with a government agency; or (3) took both of these actions.

Many underpaid workers who take action without an attorney are unsuccessful. There are a number of reasons for this, not all of which we’ll discuss in this article.

But one big reason underpaid workers fail to obtain their wages is this: they do not know that obtaining unpaid wages is a process.

Flow chart of the decision-making process iden...

You cannot expect unpaid wages to be paid to you until the required process has been completed.  Much like a baby cannot be born unless and until a process (namely, pregnancy) has taken place, as well as the related passage of time needed for that process (often, close to 9 months), and the related work (addressing medical needs, dietary and physical needs, etc.).

Do you know all the different processes that could lead to you obtaining your unpaid wages?  Do you know all the potential risks and benefits of pursuing each process (and are you SURE about that)? Do you know which process is the best one to pursue?  Do you know how much time that process is likely to take, and all the work/tasks that are necessary for that process?

If you don’t have good answers to these questions, an experienced wage attorney will.  That’s not to say you must retain an attorney, or that you must pursue any particular process.  But if you fail to realize there IS a process involved with an unpaid wage matter, and fail to consider the questions above, then you are less likely to be successful in obtaining your unpaid wages and otherwise achieving what you want to.

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“Salaried” Workers With Hours Docked May Be Overtime-Eligible

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If you are a worker paid a salary, then you may be ineligible for overtime pay, assuming other circumstances exist as well. (Being paid a salary is one of multiple criteria that must be met before an employer can consider you overtime-exempt).

However, some workers who are called “salaried” workers by their employers are not paid on a “salaried basis” as defined by overtime law, and are in fact eligible for overtime because of their non-salaried status under the law.

If an employer docks wages from a “salaried worker,” this can be a major no-no that can change the worker from “salaried” to hourly (overtime-eligible) status under the law.

For example, if on a given day a salaried worker leaves work four (4) hours early for personal reasons, an employer cannot dock the worker 4 hours wages for the missing work time.  As another example, an employer cannot dock a salaried worker an 8 hour day if the employer did not have work available, but the worker was able and willing to work the 8 hour day.

There are some exceptions, and circumstances where an employer can dock pay without affecting a worker’s salaried basis status.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a Fact Sheet describing the salaried basis test, and how an employer’s docking of a worker’s wages can mean a worker– despite being called “salaried”– is not salaried for overtime law purposes.

If you have been docked hours and wages, despite being told you are paid by salary, you may want to review DOL’s Fact Sheet above in detail, and other information about salaried basis pay and overtime laws, to clarify whether the employer should be paying you overtime wages.

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Wage Issues? Tip #10: Avoid Signing Documents You Disagree With

This post continues my series of tips, or things to consider, for workers with unpaid wages.

Tip #10 is this: Don’t Sign Documents the Employer Presents That You Disagree With, or Believe to Be False.

If you have unpaid wages, and an employer approaches you with a document to sign relating to the unpaid wages, chances are that document benefits the employer.

I am aware of employers who asked workers to sign off on:

  • Timecards or payroll documents with underreported wages. For example, some employers make automatic1/2-hour pay deductions for a lunch period everyday, despite the worker having to work through the lunch period many days. Such documentation should reflect your actual hours and pay before you should be made to sign off on it.
  • Settlement agreements that pay significantly less wages than the law requires.  Some employers, to their credit, self-identify wage underpayments and approach workers with settlement agreements in which the employers agree to pay the workers if the workers agree to waive potential legal claims. However, employers’ initial settlement offers (especially if the employees do not have attorneys) usually offer significantly less than the legally-required wages and/or damages. If it’s possible to have an attorney review and advise about a proposed settlement before applicable deadlines, this can be of assistance in potentially negotiating or winning a larger payment and avoiding potential pitfalls.
  • An arbitration agreement.  These agreements (if signed by the employee) take away the employee’s right to go to court for an employment dispute, and in some instances take away the right to participate in a class action lawsuit. The employee must participate in arbitration, a process which lacks the full rights available in court, and often involves an arbitrator hand-selected by the employer, who has routinely dealt with the employer’s matters. Employers’ ability to impose one-sided arbitration agreements became even more severe due to the Supreme Court’s AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion decision, which allows arbitration agreements to (1) limit employment disputes to an arbitration forum (and prohibit court as a forum); AND (2) take away an employee’s right to participate in a class action, whether in court or in arbitration.
  • False documentation, such as false work-leave forms, that serve the employer’s benefit.  This type of issue is common with H-1B workers, where some H-1B employers will try to get H-1B workers to sign forms indicating the workers took leaves of absence they did not in fact take. The H-1B employers who do this are often trying to cover up their “benching” of the workers and failure to pay the required wage.  If you are an H-1B worker (or employee of any kind) whose employer is confronting you with a false form, you should not sign the form and seek legal counsel before considering signature of something you know to be false and against your interests.

Please give careful time and thought to such documents before you sign them. If an employer is rushing or pressuring you to sign such documents, that is an even worse sign that the employer wants to act against your interests and not allow you a fair opportunity.

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