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What Is Wage Theft?

Posted on December 14, 2022 by Legal Team

In Ohio, all workers are protected by state and federal labor laws regardless of immigration status. These labor laws enact rules and requirements for how employers must pay their workers. Paying less than minimum wage, refusing to pay workers overtime, prohibiting rest and meal breaks, and other pay infractions can constitute wage theft. This is a legal violation that can result in a wage claim filed against an employer in Ohio.

What Is the Definition of Wage Theft? 

Wage theft is when an employer unfairly pays a worker less than what he or she is owed by law. It is the act of stealing wages from workers by not paying them what they should legally be paid according to state and federal wage laws. Wage theft can be committed intentionally or negligently by an employer in Ohio. An employer may not realize that he or she is underpaying employees through ignorance of the law, or else may knowingly break a wage law to increase the company’s profits. Either way, the employer could face penalties in Ohio. The wronged employee may be eligible for financial compensation through a wage or hour case.

Examples of Wage Theft

An employer in Ohio can take advantage of employees in many different ways to save money on paychecks. Any violation of a federal or state wage law could constitute wage theft if it takes away money that an employee legally should have earned. Wage theft can refer to many illegal pay practices, such as: 

  • Failing to pay at least minimum wage, or the minimum amount that a worker should make according to state or federal law (whichever is more).
  • Failing to provide overtime pay, which is a rate of 1.5 times what the worker typically makes per hour for every hour worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek.
  • Requiring “off-the-clock” work, where the worker clocks out or is not being paid for the hours that he or she is still working.
  • Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor to avoid paying benefits that are required only for employees, such as paid medical leave.
  • Unfair time rounding or time editing, where an employer rounds time spent on the clock in a way that benefits the employer rather than the employee.
  • Cutting a worker’s lunch break short by requiring the worker to go back to work before the end of a legally required rest or meal break.

These are just a few examples of many potential forms of wage theft in Ohio. Others include making unauthorized or illegal deductions from a worker’s paycheck, not paying final wages owed after terminating a worker’s employment, automatically deducting time for meal breaks, not paying interns, not paying for remote work, and not reimbursing a worker for business expenses.

What Are Your Rights as a Victim of Wage Theft in Ohio?

If you are a victim of wage theft in Ohio, learn your rights. For example, employees have the right to file a wage claim against employers. You can do this by filing a complaint online with the Ohio Department of Commerce or by printing out the claims form and mailing it to the Department. You could also file a complaint with the federal Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

You could be eligible for compensation for your unpaid wages or overtime, interest, penalties, liquidated damages, and more as a victim of wage theft in Ohio. However, you must act fast to ensure that you file within the deadline. In Ohio, the deadline to file a wage theft claim is two years. Finally, you have the right to hire a wage theft attorney in Cleveland to represent you. An attorney can help you understand and preserve your rights through every phase of the legal process. Contact us here!