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Are workers in San Diego victims of wage theft practices?

Workers nationwide are protected by federal laws intended to prevent discrimination, harassment or other obvious forms of unfair treatment in the workplace. Yet, workers in California and throughout the U.S. may be victims of a less obvious offense called wage theft. Wage theft is an all-too-common practice by employers that leaves employees robbed of their rightful pay and benefits.

Common types of wage theft in San Diego and throughout the country include minimum wage and overtime violations, or payroll fraud such as labeling an employee as an independent contractor. Tip stealing is another common form of wage theft.

Since wage theft is a common violation, workers may need to think twice about how they are being compensated for their work. Workers first need to understand whether they are independent contractors or employees. How does a worker know if he or she really is an employee versus an independent contractor? One expert says a good measure to define employment status is to think about who you work for each day. When you get up to go to work, are you leaving to go work for yourself, or are you leaving to go work for someone else or under someone else? The latter is typically the mark of an employee and not a contractor.

Some employers even have the nerve to say they don't pay overtime for positions in which the work could never be finished in 40 hours per week. Yet, choosing to pay overtime or not is not a decision employers get to make. State and federal labor laws determine when employers are responsible for paying workers overtime wages.

Workers whose jobs include receiving tips may be cheated by employers who don't give them the tips left at the cash register by customers. Cash tips may be pocketed by someone else and tips added to a credit or debit card may never make it to the employee. It has been estimated that about 10 percent of workers are cheated out of their tips.

Those who believe they are being treated unfairly at work should not ignore their concerns. It may be a good idea to contact an attorney in order to determine whether an employer is indeed cheating workers out of their pay.

Source: American Public Media, "Robbed on the job: Advice on fighting wage theft," Jan. 4, 2013

  • Our firm handles a variety of employee rights and employment law matters, including wage theft and unpaid overtime issues. To learn more about our firm and practice, please visit our San Diego wage and hour matters page.