People do make mistakes. Some mistakes show up in your paycheck. Workers with discrepancies in their pay should report the occasional mistake to the company’s Human Resources or Payroll contacts. They can rectify simple mistakes quickly.
Today’s timekeeping systems and automated payroll processing should reduce those human errors and build trust. But, if the company does not fix or is slow in correcting those discrepancies, you may have a problem.
Getting paid what is due
All work is a social contract. The employee commits to providing the talent and effort to an employer in exchange for agreed upon compensation.
In the abstract, you have no problem understanding that wages are a quid pro quo exchange. The employee does this, and the employer pays that. There is nothing debatable about that. How that compensation is paid is affected by federal, state, and municipal authorities.
The employer has some leeway in how and when they pay. For example, they can pay weekly or bi-weekly. They can pay in cash, check, or direct deposit. However they decide to pay, the employer must pay for all hours and parts of hours worked. They must pay for holidays, some leaves of absence, commissions, and overtime as prescribed by law. In most jurisdictions, employers are not required to pay for sick days or vacation days, but it they do as a matter of policy, they must comply with regulations on paid time off (PTO).
So, the law and the agencies representing the law offer venues to report and resolve discrepancies in your pay. For example, you can report an employer who does not pay for work as required to the U.S. Department of Labor Wages and Hours Division. They have offices in most sizeable cities.
However, using this process takes a long time and may not be accessible to complainants who live a distance from the DOL office.
What to do when you notice discrepancies in your paystub
Wage theft is a crime, and some employers do steal from their employees’ pay. They do this in several ways:
- Failure to pay overtime or all hours workers
- Violating FLSA regulations and minimum wage laws
- Not paying for meal periods or permitting rest periods
- Shaving minutes off time reported
- Not paying IRS, Social Security, or other required contributions
- Not paying earned commissions
Employers have also failed to pay salaried employees, home workers, and independent contractor employees as agreed.
What you can do
The Center for Working-Class Studies reports even more ways employers can manipulate your time worked for their gain. But, according to CBS News, “It’s notoriously difficult to track wage theft for a host of reasons.”
- Many workers are paid without a paper trail.
- Employees are afraid of retaliation.
- Many do not understand what constitutes wage theft.
Nonetheless, the Economic Policy Institute, using incomplete statistics, claims employers steal some $50-billion a year. And, given that $2-billion were reclaimed through class action litigation, the first option for a victimized employee should be an attorney experienced lawyers.
Wage theft is a fight too big for most employees. It means fighting powerful employers. It means gaining access to records and details for analysis and evidence. And, it means having the strength to meet corporate attorneys on difficult points of law. It makes sense to carry your wage theft lawyer’s phone number in your wallet.