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What to Do If Your Employer Has Withheld Your Pay

One of the most basic elements of the employer-employee relationship is the idea of fair pay for fair work. This is the agreement that employees will show up and do their work, and employers will pay them for their work. It underpins the entire economy. If employers often withheld pay from workers without excellent reason, the people responsible for actually keeping industries running would stop showing up for work, causing the economy to grind to a halt.

That’s why federal laws are so strict about requiring employers to pay their workers for the time they put in. Outside of a few extremely specific circumstances, withholding an employee’s pay without their consent is considered wage theft and illegal. Here’s what you need to know about wage theft laws regarding withheld pay, how to tell if your rights have been violated, and how to stand up for your right to receive the income you’ve earned.

Laws Regulating Pay and Withholdings

Unless you’re an exempt worker, your employer must compensate you for the time you work. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers cannot deduct funds from your wages without your consent outside of particular circumstances. The only occasions when an employer can dock an hourly worker’s pay are if the worker:

  • Steals company property
  • Damages company property
  • Is responsible for a cash shortage
  • Requires a uniform

Even in these circumstances, the company cannot dock the worker’s wages to the point where they would fall below the local minimum wage or overtime requirement. Furthermore, companies may not withhold an hourly worker’s pay as a punishment for things like forgetting to clock out or doing poor-quality work. If you come to work, your employer must compensate you for your time there.

Salaried and exempt workers also have protections against docked or withheld wages. However, the list of exceptions is longer, as they account for the fact that salaried employees may otherwise receive pay for days they do not work. Exempt employees can have their salary docked for things such as:

  • Taking days off work for personal reasons instead of illness or disability
  • Being on unpaid disciplinary suspension from work for infractions of workplace conduct rules
  • Violating significant safety rules on the job
  • Taking unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act leave

However, employers still may not dock a salaried worker’s pay because of the quality or quantity of their work. As long as they are ready and available to do work according to their employment contract, they are owed their regular compensation rate regardless of what they accomplish. If an employer does not believe the worker is doing enough to earn that money, it may either cut their salary or fire them. 

When Is Withholding Pay Wage Theft?

If you are an hourly worker, your employer may withhold compensation for hours worked if you need a uniform or have committed one of the violations listed above. They may also withhold part of your pay if you consent to have them do so for tax purposes. However, outside of those narrow rules, it is illegal for your company to withhold your hourly pay. 

For example, suppose you work as a welder. If you are paid hourly, your employer can’t dock your pay for doing less work than your colleagues. They also can’t dock your paycheck for producing faulty welds. They can penalize you in other ways, such as cutting your hours, requiring you to perform additional training, or firing you, but you must be paid at your standard rate for the hours you’ve worked.

If that doesn’t happen, then your employer is committing wage theft. You may have grounds to take legal action and pursue the pay you have not received. 

How to Fight Illegal Pay Withholding 

If you notice that your paycheck is being docked, it’s up to you to take action and pursue the money you have not received. Your employer benefits from keeping those funds for itself, so you cannot expect it to fix the problem unless you act. Here’s how you can take a stand and fight for the money you’ve rightfully earned:

  • Notify your employer. If your paycheck is simply short, your employer may not be purposefully docking your wages. If you don’t know why you aren’t receiving the funds you’ve earned, talk to your employer about it. If the problem is simply a payroll system error, you may be able to resolve the issue in a single conversation.
  • File a claim with the Department of Labor (DOL). If you’ve been specifically informed that your pay is being docked and the reason is illegal, you may want to notify the DOL. This government agency is responsible for pursuing fair labor conditions, including compensation
  • . However, it may take years for the DOL to resolve your claim. 
  • Consult an experienced employment attorney. If you want to handle the situation quickly, your best option is to consult with experienced employment lawyers. They will advocate on your behalf and help you negotiate or litigate your wage theft claim against your employer quickly, efficiently, and effectively. 

Fight for Your Rightful Income With Expert Legal Help

If you’re a victim of wage theft and illegally withheld wages, you deserve help. You have a right to the money you’ve fairly earned. If your employer is breaking the law, you may also have a claim for more compensation than just your unpaid wages. That’s why it is in your best interest to schedule your consultation with the expert attorneys at The Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman. 

Our knowledgeable team is prepared to help you aggressively pursue your wage theft claim to receive the funds you’re owed. Our decades of experience ensure we will act as strong advocates on your behalf, whether your employer decides to negotiate or if you need to take the matter to court. Call 323-973-2504 or email us today to discover how we can assist you in your wage theft case.