Working at a job is not always the most glamorous task, but it does ensure a steady paycheck. However, there are times when that paycheck isn’t steady as it should be. Sometimes, your employer may not give you the full amount of your paycheck, or may not give you a check at all. Employment lawyers call this problem unpaid wages. Here are some signs you may be having issues with unpaid wages:

You Worked Over 40 Hours Without Overtime Pay

According to Federal law, a regular work week consists of a maximum of 40 hours. Any hours beyond that is overtime work. Some states also have laws that set a daily standard for overtime, even if you didn’t work 40 hours that week. If you  work more than 40 hours per week, or more than the state’s minimum daily hours, you are likely entitled to overtime compensation. Overtime is 150% your regular rate of pay, or also called time and a half. For example, if you usually earn $10.00 per hour, your overtime rate will be $15.00 per hour.

If you notice that you’re working more than 40 hours in a week, and you’re not receiving overtime pay, you may have a case of unpaid wages. Gather and review your time information, such as time sheets or clock rings. If you notice an issue, speak with your employer about it. It might just be an accounting mistake or a bank error. If they do not provide you with a satisfactory answer, you should speak to an employment law attorney.

Your Employer Calls You an Independent Contractor

If you ask employment lawyers, there are big differences between employees and independent contractors. Employers don’t always think so. By considering you an independent contractor, employers can save a lot of money. The Government requires employers to pay a part of your employee benefits, such as unemployment and worker’s compensation. Employers also must pay half of Social Security and Medicare taxes for their employees. But they don’t have to pay any of these for independent contractors.

Speak with your employer first and ask if they could review your classification status, and change it to an employee status. Be ready to explain why you believe they should classify you as an employee. If they do not agree to your request, at least you’ll know why you are a contractor, not an employee. If you disagree, you may have to speak to a labor attorney for further guidance.

You’re Paid Less Than Minimum Wage

Federal law sets a minimum pay rate that employers must pay their employees.  The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  Many states have higher minimum wages, based the state’s cost of living. With a few exceptions, employers must pay employees the higher of either the state or Federal minimum wage. One exception to this is if you earn tips along with regular wages. In this case, your employer may pay you less than the minimum wage. It’s legal as long as your tips plus your wages add up to the Federal minimum wage.

If you believe you’re receiving less than minimum wage, and are not earning tips, you should speak to an employment law attorney. Make sure to keep records of how much your receive in tips each workday, plus your earned wages . That way, you’ll have clear documentation to show your employment law attorney. They can determine if your employer owes you unpaid wages.

You Didn’t Receive Pay for All Hours Worked

If you think you are receiving fewer hours in your paycheck than you worked, you should take action right away. Record all hours you worked during the pay period. Be sure to include any additional expenses you incurred as a result of the shortage.

Ask for an explanation from your employer. It may have been due to a bank error or a processing mistake. If so, ask if the employer or bank will cover any charges you incurred as a result of not receiving your full check. If it was their intent to not pay you, then you need to speak to an employment law attorney who specializes in unpaid wages.

Deductions You Don’t Recognize

The law requires certain paycheck deductions. Sometimes, employers can add deductions to your paycheck. Your employer should be able to explain the details of every deduction from your paycheck. If you see a deduction that you do not understand, ask your employer about it right away. If they don’t provide an explanation, talk to a labor attorney to help you understand what the deductions mean.

Always Ask About Unpaid Wages

It is up to employees to take a stand and speak to their employer if there are issues with their pay, or if they believe they have unpaid wages. Most employers are happy to assist their employees with pay discrepancies. However, if they do not, you may wish to speak with an employment law attorney. Most employment lawyers offer free initial consultations and in many cases, they can help you over the phone. Employers have a lot of leverage when they withhold wages. It’s comforting to know that you have someone on your side to fight back when it’s called for.

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