Wage theft in Ohio is a menace in the employment sector. Learn all about wage theft, the penalty for the offense, and the benefits of having an unpaid wage lawyer on your side fighting for your backpay.
Ohio is a state famous for wage theft and minimum wage violations. A 2020 publication by The Columbus Dispatch disclosed that Ohio employers keep finding ways to cheat their employees. This unethical behavior is manifested in several ways, the top of which is paying less than minimum wage.
For instance, in a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute in the ten most populous states in the U.S., 2.4 million workers covered by state and federal minimum wage laws report being paid less than they deserve. In addition, Policy Matters Ohio, analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Labor, discovered that between 2004 and 2018, 270 Cleveland companies committed at least one wage theft violation.
Undoubtedly, the number could be higher if more wage theft victims reported their employers and file claims of wage theft. But victims of wage theft are often afraid to report violations because they are afraid of employer retaliation. Other unscrupulous employers get away with the offense because employees don't know how to fight back.
The first step to fighting back is hiring an Ohio wage theft attorney. At Babin Law, LLC, our attorneys are knowledgeable in all the laws against wage theft. We also have a history of fighting for workers to get fair wages and may be able to help you get your unpaid salary.
What Is Wage Theft?
By definition, wage theft is an employer's failure to pay at least the minimum hourly rate or regular rate. It also covers the failure to pay overtime workers the premium rate based on laid down overtime law. Furthermore, business leaders would have broken wage theft laws if they misclassify eligible employees as independent contractors.
Employers do the preceding to avoid meeting the minimum wage requirement and shift tax burdens on their workers. Other types of wage theft are:
- Treating salaried workers as exempt from the overtime requirement
- Asking employees to remain on-site or perform work duties off the clock
- Employers rounding on hours worked
- Falsifying payroll records or taking illegal deductions from wages, or not distributing pay stubs
- Tip sharing and tip-pooling violations
- Unreimbursed mileage and expenses
If you find that your employer is withholding any of the above from you, it means you are a victim of wage theft. The best thing to do then is to seek advice from a wage theft lawyer who will help you get your unpaid wages.
How Do I Report Wage Theft in Ohio?
Before considering reporting your employer for any type of wage theft, you must first ensure that you qualify as a wage theft victim. To determine the latter, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your employer violating the hour laws by making you work over 40 hours weekly with no overtime?
- Do you have a backlog of unpaid overtime?
- Is your employer classifying as an independent contractor when you are a full-time employee?
- Are you getting paid less than $8.70/hour for state and $7.25 for federal and not receiving tips?
- Have you performed all your job duties and not received payment for the time worked?
- Are there deductions on your paycheck that you do not recognize?
Also, if you are in the civil service, search the Labor Department's database of workers owed wages. You can do this using your employer's name. Then, if you find that indeed you are a victim of your employer's bad business practices, you can go ahead to file a wage theft claim.
To do this, contact the Ohio Department of Commerce; you can do this whether you are in the private sector or public sector. You'll file a complaint with the department and speak with an investigator about the unpaid minimum wage, overtime, and prevailing wage. In the complaint, include information about:
- Job title
- Payment information
- Hours worked
- Any other useful details
If you are a federal worker, your complaint will come under federal labor laws. Thus, you need to file it with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Division of Wages and Hours. Note that you have to file a wage theft claim in Ohio within two years from the date of the last violation. If you do not hold your employer accountable within that time, they will get away with the theft.
Can You Sue an Employer for Unpaid Wages?
Ohio wage theft laws allow you to file a wage theft lawsuit against an employer. You can do this in a federal or state court, depending on whether you are a federal or state employee or work in the private sector. But, again, consult with an unpaid wages lawyer to know the proper party to bring your action against.
Note that you need to have your payment record to succeed with a lawsuit of this nature. The latter is the evidence showing at what time your employee withheld your salary. It also indicates any deductions made on your paycheck and your unpaid overtime. Additionally, you should know how many hours you worked, and your colleagues’ testimonies can help you.
Can You Avoid Falling Victim to Wage Theft?
The simple answer is yes. If you properly track your work hours and pay, it would be hard for your employer to cheat you and get away with it. It would also help to unionize. That way, wage theft goes beyond a personal employment matter to a union matter. Aside from a lawyer, labor unions fight for employees’ rights and have the resources to challenge an unscrupulous employer.
Can Employers Get Punished for Wage Theft?
In Ohio, there seems to be an ongoing business for wage theft, especially for private employers. According to a 2019 report by Policy Matters Ohio, wage theft is prevalent in the state because employers do not see it as breaking the law. Another is because of the lax enforcement of wage theft laws. For instance, a theft of $2,800 is a felony punishable with a jail or prison term of up to 12 months.
However, the law only applies in theory. In practice, employers who commit wage theft only pay back a portion of the stolen wages, not the total amount owed. This is because Ohio fails to treat wage theft as the criminal activity it is. Instead, it awards a civil-like punishment in a bid to make the employer compliant.
Sadly, this method meant to serve as deterrence does not always work. Ohio employers continue to commit wage theft because it is easy, and they get away with it. Another reason for the prevalence of this offense is the lack of investigators. If more investigators look into employers’ abusive practices, perhaps there will be fewer unpaid wages.
So, what does this mean for you as an employee?
As an employee, your focus should be on getting what your employer owes you and not getting them incarcerated. The best way to do this is by filing a complaint, as mentioned earlier, or commencing a civil lawsuit.
What Will an Ohio Unpaid Wages Lawyer Do for You?
A laborer deserves to get paid for the work done. This fact is recognized by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). So, whether your employer intentionally or inadvertently fails to pay your wages doesn't matter. It is wage theft, and you deserve to recover the amount owed.
Our lawyers at Babin Law, LLC have experience handling wage and hour class actions on behalf of thousands of workers across the country. In addition, you don't have to worry about upfront attorney fees as we give free initial consultations. So, call us today to see if one of our attorneys can help you.