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Protecting Yourself Against Wage Theft

Wage theft is one of the most serious financial issues facing workers across America today, and can cost victims thousands of dollars per year. In New York alone, it is estimated that wage theft costs workers approximately $3 billion per year in lost income. But what exactly is wage theft, and how can you protect yourself against it?


What is Wage Theft?

“Wage theft” is the broad term for any type of practice by an employer where they fail to pay an employee what they are legally owed by the terms of their employment. This can come about as a result of negligent business practices that fail to ensure employees are given appropriate compensation, or it can be a result of deliberate efforts to deny employees the wages they have rightfully earned. Although it is not technically a type of “theft” in the sense of being a crime, it is still a violation of wage and hour laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

What Does Wage Theft Look Like?

Wage theft can take many possible forms. Some of the most common offenses seen in wage and hour cases include:

  • Failure to pay overtime, or not paying enough for overtime

  • Failing to pay minimum wage

  • Forcing employees to work off the clock

  • Taking illegal deductions from pay or benefits

  • Refusing to allow employees to take breaks

  • Failing to compensate employees for work-related expenses

  • Stealing tips, or engaging in illegal tip sharing

  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors

  • Failing to pay a final paycheck after quitting or being terminated

  • Retaliating against employees who report wage theft

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Wage Theft?

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against wage theft is to know your rights, and to recognize when you have been unfairly denied your wages. You should also make sure to hold onto any communications between you and your employer, including forwarding any emails outside of your organization so you can retain access to them. That way, they cannot easily conceal evidence that they have denied you your compensation.

What Should You Do if You Are the Victim of Wage Theft?

If you suspect that you or another worker has been the victim of wage theft, you should promptly file a complaint with your state’s Department of Labor. You should also make sure to consult with a lawyer with experience handling employment law issues. They can assist you in determining the best course of action for you, and help you to enforce your legal rights.

Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 42 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or

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