Tag Archives: Unpaid Wages

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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Wage Issues? Tip #9: Don’t Drop the A- (Attorney-) Bomb

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

Tip #9 is this: Don’t Drop the A- (Attorney-) Bomb—that is, don’t tell the employer you have an attorney unless you really have an attorney and that attorney tells you to tell the employer you have an attorney.

Okay, that was a mouthful!

But as an attorney, I am often consulted by workers who– before they ever consulted with me or with another attorney– threatened the employer that they had done so.

I’ve even had workers who’d I’d never represented, and who’d never contacted me before, send their employers emails with my email address cc’d, to give the employer the impression that the workers had retained me.

Please do not make “A”-bomb threats like these!

Here’s why:

  • Employers often view attorney threats as empty threats, thinking that if you really were going to have an attorney go after the employer, the employer would have heard that from the attorney, not from you.
  • Employers who do believe the threat (1) will often try to hide their tracks and take concealed actions against you, now that you tipped them off you’re considering getting an attorney; and/or (2) will often try to get you to agree to a lowball settlement offer, before you get an attorney involved who may advise you of a higher potential case value and settlement valuation. Often, the employer does not offer a thing in result of the threat– I get inquiries from worker who were not only unsuccessful in that their A-Bomb threat got them no offer of wages or settlement money, but further, their threat resulted in the employer retaliating and/or firing them.
  • The threat rarely works as well as actually getting a wage attorney.

When I represent workers with unpaid wages, the decision about when and how to inform the employer of me being retained is a very careful and well-planned decision.

When a worker makes that decision before consulting with me, the news is often delivered in ways that I wouldn’t have advised– too soon, too late, too angrily, too vaguely, etc.

It’s a significant decision to tell the employer about an attorney or potential legal action. Please consider talking to an attorney before you tell the employer you’re in contact with an attorney.

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Wage Issues? Tip #2: Know that Statutes of Limitations (Deadlines) Apply, and Are of Pressing Importance

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This post continues my series of tips, or things to consider, for workers with unpaid wages.Tip #2 is this: Know that statutes of limitations (deadlines) apply, and are of pressing importance.

Every situation that involves unpaid wages also involves a ticking clock.  That is, there are statutes of limitations, i.e. deadlines, that apply to your unpaid wages.

Many wage laws have a two (2)- year deadline, and that deadline likely only applies to a period before the complaint-filing date.  For example, Wisconsin wage law has a two-year deadline, and if a Wisconsin State wage complaint were filed in court on April 26, 2011, the worker could only seek unpaid wages for the two-year block dating back to April 26, 2009.  With each day that passes, in this example, a day’s worth of potentially recoverable unpaid wages is lost.

Please note that several laws, with several different deadlines, could apply to one situation of unpaid wages.  I have seen situations where over five (5) potential legal claims existed for one worker with unpaid wages.  Further, some laws (if you are fortunate enough they apply to you) provide for longer deadlines, ranging from three (3) to six (6) year deadlines, and in rare instances longer periods.

In sum, there can be multiple different laws, and multiple different deadlines, that can apply to one situation of unpaid wages.

Because such deadlines exist, if you have unpaid wages you should act promptly to (1) evaluate potential legal claims; (2) determine the potential claims’ merits and deadlines; and (3) if there are potential claims you feel are worth pursuing, take legal action (negotiate with the employer and/or file a legal complaint).

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Work Hours Deducted From Paycheck? Don’t Give Your Employer a Free Lunch.

Free Lunch!
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Has your employer deducted money from your paycheck for hours that you worked?

Some employers will make mandatory deductions from hourly workers’ paychecks, without regard to time actually worked.  For example, some employers will automatically deduct one half-hour per day for a “required” lunch period, and will make this deduction without checking whether the employee was actually OFF work, and actually took a break, during that time.

Moreover, the employee’s work circumstances may have given him or her no choice but to work through lunch.  It is one thing for an employer to say an employee is free to take a lunch break, or “must” take a lunch break every day.  But that expectation of the employer does little good if there are competing expectations (e.g. busy schedules, complaining customers, limited time available, etc.) that demand an employee perform work during the designated lunch time.

Please know that if you actually WORK during the deducted periods of time (e.g. you worked during the deducted “lunch” breaks), it is NOT acceptable for the employer to reap the benefits of your work without paying you.

It is not enough for the employer to claim they told you that you were prohibited from working.

The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) at 29 C.F.R. § 785.13 (Duty of management) provides the following:

“[I]t is the duty of the management to exercise its control and see that the work is not performed if it does not want it to be performed. It cannot sit back and accept the benefits without compensating for them. The mere promulgation of a rule against such work is not enough. Management has the power to enforce the rule and must make every effort to do so.”

If you are not being paid for work that you performed, you should consider having an employee rights attorney review your circumstances to see whether you should be receiving wages for the deducted periods, and whether the employer is violating wage law.  You may have good legal options to claim wages, and/or take back your free lunch.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is not legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship between you and attorney Michael Brown or his law firm.

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No Pay for Boot-Up Time: More Corporate Slash-‘n-Burn

The Evil HR Lady has an interesting post here about lawsuits brought against corporations who refused to pay wages to employees for brief periods of time (@15 to 30 minutes per day) during which their computers were being booted up and/or shut down.

The Evil HR Lady (an anonymous “HR professional in a Fortune 500 Company” and well-respected blogger) makes the following excellent points about these no-pay-for-boot-up practices:

I’ll leave the legalities to the lawyers … Let’s talk about the people. Remember them? We’re supposed to lead them. This is supposed to cause HR to lead organizations.

Apparently, we were leading them to self destruction. (Where are we and why are we in this handbasket? we might ask ourselves.) Sure, employees aren’t “working” while their computers are booting up. They may even be, gasp! talking to their co-workers or drinking coffee. But, they are in the office. They can’t be somewhere else. They have to be in the building. Therefore, they are at work and should be paid as such.

But, let’s say, for argument’s sake, that [the companies] are legally right. Computer booting time can be unpaid. Just how much do you hate your people? Do you want them to leave? Do you want to drain the lifeblood out of them? Do you not understand that your best employees will find new jobs and that as a result, the quality of your workforce will gradually decline?

… You cannot run a good business without good employees. You cannot get and keep good employees without good policies. If HR is encouraging this type of policy … then they should be ashamed of themselves.

Trying to save a few bucks will result in you destroying your company. Your people are your company. Stop being stingy.

I completely agree with Evil HR Lady’s points here, which are: (1) people (employees) are a company’s greatest resource; (2) employees will resent a company’s stinginess, and will try to leave a company that is stingy; and (3) it is therefore not in a company’s financial interest to be stingy and save a few bucks in the short term, when the long-term effects (loss of many good employees) cost more.

But I will add there is another element in play here, aside from these companies’ disregard of best-practices as to finances: disregard of workers’ humanity. These companies’ wage policies treat workers as merely numbers- at best as cattle.

Do these companies ever stop to think thoughts like these: “Geez- maybe we have legal grounds to argue Joe should be paid for 7.5 hours rather than 8. After all, it does take about one half hour total time for him to boot up and shut down his computer. BUT… Joe is here 8 hours because we require him to be. Joe is a responsible person. Joe has mouths to feed at home. And hey, maybe we could argue this computer time is an arguable legal issue, but when looking at Joe as a fellow human being- as someone like me- it’s a no-brainer to pay him for 8 hours. After all, I [INSERT CORP MANAGER’S NAME] would want to be paid for 8 hours if I were in Joe’s shoes.”

Thoughts like these rarely occur in corporate America, I am convinced. Little thought is given to the human toll of slash-and-burn management and penny-pinching.

There is no Golden Rule. The Rule is Gold. Or, some transient managers’ idea of it.

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5 Reasons Why an H-1B Employer Would Want to Reach Settlement With An Underpaid Employee



If your H-1B employer (or former H-1B employer) underpaid your wages, you may be interested in complaining to the employer or pursuing legal action, but worried about what may happen to you. You may be worried that, if you complain about unpaid wages, you may lose your H-1B status, and be subject to deportation.

These are realistic concerns. Pursuing your legal rights indeed is a serious and delicate matter. You should thoroughly educate yourself on your legal rights and options before you take action or assume risks.

However, you should know that an underpaying H-1B employer has its own risks to worry about. The legal and financial consequences that an employer faces if found to have underpaid an H-1B employee’s wages could drive the employer out of business.

Rather than face the risks that result from a worker filing a legal complaint, fraudulent H-1B employers will often prefer to reach a settlement with an underpaid H-1B worker.

Fraudulent H-1B employers may well agree to a settlement that: (a) pays you your unpaid wages (and possibly more, given the possibility of legal penalty monies in addition to wages); (b) fixes any immigration-status problems (e.g. makes sure you receive valid payments and paystubs needed for H-1B transfer); and (c) agrees not to retaliate against you.

Below are 5 reasons why an underpaying H-1B employer should agree to such a settlement.

(Please note: This article is NOT advising you to demand settlement from your employer, to threaten your employer with legal action, or to take legal action. Before trying to negotiate a settlement or filing a legal complaint on your own, it is strongly advised that you talk to an attorney, such as an H-1B rights attorney and immigration attorney, about your own specific circumstances and legal options).


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H-1B Workers’ Fears vs. Fighting for Your Rights

Fear is the biggest factor that holds many H-1B workers back from approaching their employer (or former employer), and asking for their underpaid wages, or from taking legal action.

H-1B workers do in fact have several options and legal rights. Some of those rights are very powerful.

However, those rights will not do you any good unless you are willing to pursue them. To fight to enforce your rights. To make educated and bold decisions, and stick to them. To know that, in order to achieve what you want to, you will have to take on some risks.

A fraudulent H-1B employer has many more risks than an underpaid H-1B worker does. Many H-1B employers would be willing to discuss an amicable settlement with an underpaid H-1B worker rather than deal with a legal action, and face the potentially severe liabilities. Yet the employers don’t seem to worry nearly as much as do the H-1B employees.

If you are an H-1B worker, and are too fearful to talk to your employer about unpaid wages, I can understand where you’re coming from, and I could never judge you for feeling that way.

However, I do ask that you not contact me, asking me to spend hours of time discussing legal rights that you know you’d never pursue anyway, because of your fears. Only if it’s possible you could commit to assuming some risks and pursuing your rights could an attorney possibly help you.

If you don’t take action, you may well face risks (e.g. an employer’s underpayments could be hurting your immigration status). If you do take action, you may well face risks (e.g. the employer may threaten deportation). You’ve got to deal with your situation.

In dealing with your situation: (1) don’t let fear control you; (2) know the risks are there, and that you must deal with them; (3) educate yourself about your legal rights and options; (4) learn what options present the lowest risks and highest potential benefits; (5) make an educated decision; and (6) don’t second-guess yourself. Only if you are willing to overcome your fear and accept risks would you have any chance to obtain what you’re owed, and to improve your immigration status and options.

Additional Information

For more H-1B employee rights information, please visit the blog www.h1blegalrights.com.

To learn more about H-1B rights and options, please see these posts:

For information about H-1B Rights & Immigration Rights Attorneys Michael F. Brown and Vonda K. Vandaveer, please visit here.

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FAQS- If You Were Underpaid as an H-1B Worker and Are No Longer in the U.S.

If you were underpaid as an H-1B, and are now outside the U.S., below are some frequently asked questions and answers.

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Employee Tip: If You’re an H-1B Worker Being Underpaid Wages, Consider These Things

If you are an H-1B professional worker who is being underpaid wages, please know that you have legal rights. The information below describes your rights as an H-1B professional, and factors and options you should consider before taking legal action or pursuing your wages.

Please note this post does not provide legal advice- if you want legal advice, you should contact an attorney and discuss your specific circumstances. If you are interested in legal assistance from attorney-author Michael Brown or his law firm DVG Law Partner for your matter, please contact them here:

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Подсказка работникy: если Вы H-1B профессионал, которому недоплачивают заработную плату, подумайте над следующими вещами…

Подсказка работникy: если Вы H-1B профессионал, которому недоплачивают заработную плату, подумайте над следующими вещами:

Если Вы профессионал, приехавший по визе H-1B, которому в настоящее время недоплачивают зарплату, знайте, что вы имеете юридические права. Приведенная ниже информация описывает Ваши права, нормы и опции, как H-1B профессионала, которые  вы должны рассмотреть до принятия каких либо юридических действий. (Обратите внимание, что эта статья не является юридически консультационной, если вы хотите юридический совет, то Вам
следует обратиться к адвокату, который имеет опыт работы с визами H-1B и невыплатой заработной платы и обсудить Ваши конкретные обстоятельства).

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