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What to do when your paycheck doesn't add up

Your body may tell you that you work hard, but your paycheck may not show it. Some weeks it may seem like you worked a day or two for free, and that may not be far from the truth. If you are noticing discrepancies between what you expected your check to be and the amount you received, you may be one of the countless victims of wage theft.

A recent survey revealed that nearly half of the people questioned about their earnings reported suffering some form of wage theft. However, just because the problem seems overwhelming doesn't mean there's nothing you can do about it. You have a right to the money you worked for.

How do I know I'm a victim of wage theft?

Wage theft often occurs when a company goes out of business. The business owner may decide that the struggling company will close at the end of the week, yet workers continue to come to work and clock in unaware that the owner does not intend to give them a final paycheck. On the other hand, if you have ever quit a job and not received pay for your last days at work, you were a victim of wage theft.

However, there are other more insidious ways that employers may steal your hard-earned pay from you, for example:

  • Not keeping accurate records of the hours you work or the rate at which the business should pay you
  • Deducting pay for breaks allowed by Minnesota statutes
  • Classifying you as a salaried worker to avoid paying you for overtime, or classifying you as a contract worker to avoid offering you benefits
  • Paying you less than minimum wage
  • Counting your tips as part of your salary or taking a percentage of your tips
  • Charging you for your uniform or the use of equipment you need on the job
  • Failing to pay the prevailing rate for your skill set
  • Requiring you to work off the clock

In one year, Minnesota workers lose an average of more than $550,000 in wages to unscrupulous or careless employers. While laws exist to protect you and other workers from the loss of your earnings, authorities do not always enforce these laws well. You may be interested in knowing that it is not hourly workers alone who suffer from this widespread problem, but those who are victims most often are people who work in construction, janitorial services, home health care and hospitality.

Because federal wage laws differ from Minnesota's state statutes, you may be unsure if your employer is ripping you off. For answers to your questions and advice on how to proceed if you are the victim of wage theft, you could benefit from having a legal advocate.

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