More money in New Jersey and throughout the country is lost each year to wage theft than to shoplifting. In fact, the amount that workers lose reaches billions of dollars.
Fortunately, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) helps to ensure minimum wages and overtime rates are paid to workers.
This means that if a worker has not received his/her entitlements and wage theft takes place, it is possible to file a wage theft claim against the employer to get the wage theft repaid. If you believe that your employer has not properly paid you, then you should file a wage claim in order to start the wage theft claim process.
What You Need to Know Before You File a Wage Theft Claim
A wage theft claim can be filed when:
- you haven’t been paid the federal minimum wage;
- you have worked out of normal working hours and not been paid;
- you haven’t been paid the correct overtime rates after 40 hours of work per week;
- you have been forced to work through lunch and rest breaks;
- you haven’t been paid at all.
If you need to file a wage theft claim in New Jersey you must file a claim within six years of the alleged violation.
How to Report Wage Theft
The first step you should follow is to inform your employer of the wage theft and try and reach a satisfactory agreement about paying the money owed.
If this is not successful, the New Jersey Division of Wage and Hour Compliance is responsible for investigating wage theft claims by employees.
If you are sure that your employer has not paid you the right amount of money you should begin the claim process by completing a wage claim form and either file it online or send it by mail.
After 10 days you will be sent your claim number. If your claim is valid, your case will be assigned an investigator.
The investigator will first look at all your evidence, like work dates and times, your pay check stubs and reports from witnesses and will then go ahead with the wage collection proceeding from your employer.
New Jersey Wage Theft Law
Last year on August 6th, New Jersey enacted a new wage theft law that typically extended the statute of limitations for claims from two to six years.
The legislation has also increased the penalties for employers who violate the law to 18 months of prison time and up to $15,000 in fines for those who are repeat offenders.
This law is considered to have become one of the most severe wage theft laws in the nation. Apart from the maximum penalties for wage theft, the employer could lose its business license. Also, for a 1st violation, a fine of between $500 and $1,000 could be imposed and/or 10-90 days in jail.
For a 2nd or subsequent violation, the employer could expect to be fined between $1,000 and $2,000 and/or 10-100 days in jail. For the victim of the wage theft, s/he can expect to receive the value of the wage theft and up to 200% of its value plus attorney’s fees.
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Failing to pay employees properly for overtime is one of the most common wage violations by employers.
However, because New Jersey Wages and Hours laws are strict, you should be able to get your wage theft repaid but you might need an employment lawyer to guide you through the sometimes difficult process to help ensure you get paid what you are owed.