Is Your Employer Shorting Your Pay?
WAGE AND HOUR ISSUES IN MISSOURI
Wage theft is a serious issue. Over 60% of low-wage workers suffer wage violations each year. On average, workers lose an astounding 15% of their pay to wage and hour violations.
If you are an hourly employee, your employer cannot pay you less than the minimum wage. If you work in Missouri, the minimum wage is $7.65 per hour. Employers deprive workers of the minimum wage using a variety of tactics. Below are some of the most common ones:
- Requiring workers to work off-the-clock. Employers cannot require workers to work for free at anytime. You should not be logging onto a computer, setting up a work station, or closing a store while off the clock. All work performed should be on the clock and should be compensated.
- Shorting tipped workers. Tipped workers can be paid the “sub-minimum wage” ($3.825 in Missouri for most employers) but only if the worker makes enough in tips and wages combined to equal the minimum wage of $7.65 per hour. Your employer should not be recording more tips than you actually received in order to make it look like you received the minimum wage when you did not.
- Tampering with timesheets. Businesses frequently pressure managers to keep labor costs lower than what the business actually demands. To keep costs low, a manager may unlawfully change your time sheet to say you worked less than you did. Keep your own record of the hours you worked each day (write it in a pocket notebook or type it on your phone) and compare your records to your pay stub.
- Failing to pay for rest breaks or wait time. If an employer gives you a break of twenty minutes or less, you should be compensated for that time. If you are on a lunch break but your employer requires you to remain at work and perform any work duties (e.g. answer the phone or assist customers) then you should be compensated. If your employer requires you to come to work at a certain time but makes you wait until it gets busy to start your shift, you should be paid for that wait time.
- Deducting your paycheck. Some employers deduct certain amounts from an employee’s paycheck, such as a cash shortage or a uniform cost. An employer may not make a deduction if it brings your pay below the minimum wage.
If you are an hourly worker, you must be paid time and one-half for any time you work over 40 hours a week. The overtime rate is based on your regular hourly pay, not the minimum wage. So, if you make $10 per hour, time-and-a-half is $15 per hour.
Salary Versus Hourly Pay
Some employers avoid paying overtime and the minimum wage by paying an employee a salary. But only certain types of employees may be paid a salary in lieu of an hourly wage (they are called “exempt” employees). First, the employee must be paid a minimum of $455 per week and second, the employee must have certain decision-making abilities and/or control over the workplace. It is not uncommon for an employer to “misclassify” employees as exempt when they are not.
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Employer Is Shorting My Pay?
- Keep records. For example, how much time are you spending off the clock? What about your coworkers? Keep a log that shows what you should be paid versus what you are being paid.
- Keep your pay stubs and any handbooks, job descriptions, schedules or other documents provided to you by your employer (however, do not take any documents from your employer that you are not permitted to take).
- Write down the names of all people involved in the wrongdoing and all other workers affected by it.
- Call an employment attorney for a consultation regarding your legal options.
- Know that your employer may not retaliate against you for attempting to address a wage and hour violation.
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