As an employee, there is an expectation that when you show up for work each day you will receive compensation for the work you do in a fair and timely fashion. While mistakes can happen, the truth is that if you have not been paid for the work you have completed, this could be an example of wage theft.
Wage theft is a term that covers a variety of situations where an employee is not paid for the work that has been performed. It includes not being paid for the total amount of hours worked, not being paid minimum wage, not being paid overtime, not receiving a final paycheck after leaving a job and not being paid at all. Wage theft also includes the misclassification of employees, time shaving and asking employees to work off the clock.
Wage theft is something that happens in workplaces all over the country. It does not matter how big or small your company is. Wage theft can happen in major corporations and small businesses. If you are a resident of Tennessee, you need to know what to do if you believe you have been the victim of wage theft.
What You Need to Know Before You File a Wage Theft Claim
The first step is to understand Tennessee’s labor laws, which are governed by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Not only are Tennessee workers protected by federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes wage theft laws on a federal level, the Tennessee Wage Regulations Act protects workers from unfair labor practices and offers an additional layer of protection.
In Tennessee, minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, and the state requires that employees take meal breaks. Employees must take a 30-minute unpaid break within a six-hour period, and failure to provide that break is a violation of state law. What that means is that if your employer is forcing you to work through your required break even though you are not on the clock, this would be cause for a wage theft claim.
An employee who leaves the job, or is fired from a job, is entitled to receive a final paycheck no later than the following payday, or 21 days from the date of leaving, whichever is last. Your employer cannot hold on to your final paycheck until you turn in your uniform unless you have signed an agreement to do so in your initial hiring paperwork.
Similarly, employees must be paid no less than once per month. Payday for a given month must be scheduled for no later than the fifth day of the following month, so you must be paid for your April work no later than May 5.
Any deviation from these rules would be considered a wage theft violation.
How to Report Wage Theft
Once you have determined that you could be the victim of wage theft, you need to review your company handbook and hiring paperwork to make sure that you understand your rights and that you didn’t sign something that would prevent you from filing a claim, such as a clause that states that your final paycheck could be withheld until you return your uniform.
To file a claim, you need to contact the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Division of Labor Standards. You should file your claim as soon as possible to ensure that the situation is on its way to being resolved quickly, before you lose more money.
Depending on the nature of your situation, you might also file a claim at the federal level through the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is governed by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
This can be challenging, as there is evidence to be gathered and paperwork to file. You might consider speaking with an experienced employment attorney to help guide you through the process. Many employment attorneys work on a contingency basis, so you will not pay anything unless you win your case, so there is very little risk involved.
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If you suspect that you have been the victim of wage theft, you need to take action right away to ensure that you receive the compensation you are due. In order to have the strongest claim possible, you need to collect evidence. With wage theft, the best evidence will be your pay stubs and paychecks, copies of your timecards and the hours you work.
To get in touch with an employment law attorney that takes case in your area, fill out a Free Case Evaluation form today.