Employers: Don’t find yourself guilty of wage theft

Employers who may want to save a few dollars by shorting employees out of tips, calling employees contractors instead of employees, or making employees work through their breaks may face the same judicial repercussions as several businesses nationwide.

Employees who have been wronged by their bosses have been filing – and winning – wage theft lawsuits. These lawsuits seek to recover lost wages from employers that violate state and federal wage and hour laws.

A recent example

Employees at two Los Angeles car washes – Silver Lake Car Wash and Catalina Car Wash – were being paid as little at $4.50 an hour. claiming wage theft, and in late November the owners settled with workers and agreed to pay them each between $17,000 and $40,000 in back pay.

In addition, the businesses will pay nearly $520,000 in civil penalties and nearly $36,000 in attorney fees.

The city alleges nearly 60 workers were required to work 10 hours a day with no overtime or breaks for as little as $45 per day and had to buy their own boots and gloves to meet safety standards.

The lawsuit filed by the city also alleges the businesses falsified payroll records.

The businesses will be monitored for four years. A wage-law violation will be subject to contempt of court, officials said.

Hallmarks of wage theft lawsuits

Among the most common causes of a wage theft lawsuit are:

  • Underreported hours
  • Lack of overtime pay
  • Stolen tips
  • Working through breaks

In addition to filing a lawsuit, workers who feel they have been wronged can file a complaint with federal authorities such as the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

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