What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft occurs when workers do not receive the minimum wage for all hours worked, and overtime of time-and-a-half for hours worked over forty in one workweek. In some cases, workers are purposely “misclassified” as independent contractors or as “exempt” from the wage and hour laws by companies trying to save money. Sometimes workers are forced to work “off the clock” without pay. A common example industry where wage theft is rampant is the restaurant industry. For tipped restaurant workers, employers often do not pay according to the law.
A new law that recently went into effect makes it easier for workers to recover unpaid wages from their employers.
The new District of Columbia Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014 went into effect on February 26, 2015. The new law provides increased penalties and stronger remedies for workers who are not paid for all hours worked or for overtime over 40 hours in one workweek.
Wage Theft Prevention Act: The Basics
One new requirement in the law is that employers must give employees written notice of their wage rates, as well as the employer’s name, address and phone number. The employer must give this notice within 90 days after the effective date of the law. Temporary staffing firms must also provide this notice. In addition, they must include information such as the specific rate of pay for the particular job the employee is assigned to. There are increased record-keeping requirements in which the employers must keep a record of the precise time each worker works each day and maintain those records for three years. Failure by the employer to keep records and provide notices can extend the statute of limitations for filing claims until the employer complies.
Fight Employer Retaliation
The remedies for retaliation against employees who complain about unpaid wages are also expanded in the new law. If an employer takes any adverse action against a worker within 90 days of asserting their rights, there is a rebuttable presumption that the employer engaged in unlawful retaliation.
Class Action Lawsuits
Under the new law, class action lawsuits are easier to pursue. Groups of similarly wronged employees can be included in the lawsuit automatically unless they “opt out” of the case.
Subcontractors are on the Hook Too
If a subcontractor fails to pay their employee all wages owed, the general contract is also liable for the wage and hour violations. This provision will make it much easier for workers to recover money owed, because some subcontractors try to escape and hide their resources.
Four Times Over
The remedy for workers who file a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages or unpaid overtime can include four times the unpaid wages (quadruple damages) plus attorneys’ fees paid by the employer.
What to Do
The law also creates new administrative remedies, although those pieces of the law are not yet implemented. The most effective way to obtain unpaid wages and unpaid overtime is to file a lawsuit under the D.C. law as well as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Have You Been Affected by Wage Theft?
Unfortunately, wage theft is a terrible thing that happens every single day all over the country. While this law is one of the most aggressive laws to combat this, it is up to you, the employee, to take a stand and demand fair pay. The first way to do this is to be informed about your rights. Many workers are unaware that they are entitled to be paid for every hour worked, including overtime time-and-a-half for any work done over 40 hours a week.
Ashcraft & Gerel is committed to combating companies and employers who prey on their employees in the form of wage theft. We have a deep-seeded belief that fair work demands fair pay. Our experienced labor team, including Virginia Diamond, one of the foremost labor and union activists in the area, are ready and capable to help you. If you believe your employer in violating the D.C. Wage Theft Prevention law, contact our labor team today either online or by calling (800) 674-9725.