When we think about wage theft, we often associate it with hourly, tipped, or low-wage workers who face issues like unpaid overtime or withheld pay. But even salaried employees in New York City can experience wage theft – and the theft may be harder to spot. That means that your paycheck, the hard-earned money that you rely on, can be at risk.
What Are New York City’s Wage Theft Laws?
New York State has strong laws in place to protect both hourly and salaried employees, starting with the Wage Theft Prevention Act. Not only must companies pay their salaried employees a certain amount, but they can be penalized for failing to provide:
- Minimum Wage – New York City’s minimum wage is above the federal minimum wage. Even if you’re on a salary, if you divide your paycheck by the total number of hours you’ve worked, your employer must ensure that you meet this minimum wage.
- Overtime Pay – While many salaried employees such as executive, administrative, and professional employees are exempt from overtime pay, others may still be eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in one week.
- Wage Statements – Employers must provide you with detailed wage statements that include your rate of pay, the number of hours you’ve worked, and any deductions.
- Record Keeping – In addition, employers must also maintain their own records of the hours worked and wages paid for each employee. This information must be accurate and can be used to verify whether you’ve been paid correctly or not.
- Anti-Retaliation Protections – As an employee, you are protected from retaliation if you raise concerns about wage theft or assert your legal rights.
Companies that violate New York City’s wage theft laws can face severe penalties, including fines and wage restitution to affected employees. As a salaried employee, if you’ve experienced wage theft, you can file a wage theft claim or file a lawsuit to get the wages you’re owed.
What Can Wage Theft Look Like for Salaried Workers?
Wage theft for salaried employees can take various forms, many of which may take time to become apparent. This is why sometimes employers can get away with wage theft for months or years at a time, costing their workers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s crucial to recognize these issues as they can significantly impact your financial well-being:
- Misclassification – Because independent contractors don’t get the same rights and benefits as full-time employees, companies will sometimes try to misclassify non-exempt employees as exempt or independent contractors to save on costs. This can cost you thousands of dollars in unpaid benefits and employment rights.
- Off-the-Clock Work – If you’re a non-exempt employee, your employer cannot expect you to arrive early, stay late, or work during your lunch break without accounting for this time. All training hours, meetings, or on-call hours should count towards your weekly total. This hidden labor can add up over time to thousands in wage theft.
- Illegal Deductions – Your employer cannot make unauthorized or illegal deductions from your salary. If you notice unexplained reductions in your paycheck, it’s important to investigate to make sure they fall within New York’s labor laws.
- Forced Unpaid Leave – As a salaried employee, you may be asked to take unpaid leave for various reasons, but this can only be done in compliance with employment laws. Unlawful forced unpaid leave can result in wage theft.
- Salary Below Minimum Wage – Even if your annual salary seems substantial, that may not be the case when you consider how many hours you actually worked. If you divide your earnings by your total hours worked, you must make at least New York’s minimum hourly wage. Falling below the minimum wage like this is another form of wage theft.
- Withheld Commissions or Bonuses – If your contract or compensation package includes commissions or bonuses, but your employer consistently withholds or delays these payments, that could be a form of wage theft. Depending on your contract terms, this could include commission or bonus payments even after your employment ends.
- Reduced Salary Without Proper Notice – If your employer decreases your salary without giving you adequate notice or justification, it can be considered wage theft, especially if the reduction violates the terms of your employment agreement.
- Uniform and Work-Related Expenses – If your employer requires you to purchase uniforms, tools, or equipment for your job but doesn’t reimburse you for these expenses, this reduces how much you take home at the end of the day, resulting in wage theft.
Not all forms of wage theft are obvious right away, especially when they involve salaried workers who get the same paycheck every week and don’t necessarily keep track of all of their hours and benefits. By being aware of these forms of wage theft, you can take action to protect your rights – including getting legal help from a wage theft lawyer when necessary.
What Can You Do About Salaried Wage Theft?
Finding out that you’ve had your wages stolen can be disheartening, but it’s important to remember that you have rights. You can take steps to get back the wages you’re owed:
- Document Everything – Keep a detailed record of your work hours, pay stubs, and any communications with your employer about your pay and hours. Not all employers act in bad faith, but if your employer has ill intentions, you may not be able to trust their records for accuracy. Keeping your own copies can help you spot discrepancies.
- Talk to Your Employer or HR Department – In some cases, unpaid wages could be the result of administrative oversight. Your supervisors or HR department might be willing to help you fix the issue and get you back the wages you’re owed.
Unfortunately, if your employer fails to take corrective action or worse – retaliates against you for complaining about unpaid wages, you might have to consider filing a legal claim.
New York City has robust labor laws in place that protect the rights and earnings of salaried workers, but you must take steps to advocate for yourself if you suspect wage theft. By talking to a New York wage theft lawyer, you can get on the road to recovering your unpaid wages.
Your financial well-being deserves protection – at Mirza Law, we can help. Contact us now.