Most employers are above-board and pay their employees fairly -- but there are still plenty of employers out there who won't hesitate to skim wages off an employee's paycheck if they can do it without getting caught. The most common way that happens is when an employer figures out a way to cheat his or her employees out of overtime.
With very few exceptions, employees who work more than 40 hours in a week are legally due overtime pay. Here are the illegal ways that some employers use to skirt that law:
1. Hour Shifting Or Sliding
If your manager keeps a calendar up on the office wall in order to track the number of hours an employee works in a week and sometimes "shift" or slides the hours from one week to the next, saying something like, "It balances out over the pay period," that's actually illegal. Shifting around the hours so that they aren't counted in a single week doesn't mean you aren't due overtime.
2. Misclassifying Employees
There are a lot of different reasons that employers like to misclassify employees as independent contractors -- not the least of which is that it gets the employer out of paying any overtime. It doesn't matter how long an "independent employee" works in a week.
If your boss had you sign an agreement as an independent contractor but keeps a firm lock on when you do your work, how you do your work, whether or not you're able to work for other companies, and whether or not you can hire other people to work under you as subcontractors, you're probably actually an employee -- and being cheated out of your fair wages.
3. Taking Work "Off The Clock"
If you've ever been told to open up the restaurant or store you work in and get it ready for customers before you clock in, that's an illegal maneuver on your employer's part. So is asking you to clock out and then clean up. Asking you to work through your lunch when you're due an unpaid lunch is another sly way that employers sometimes get free labor out of their employees. That fifteen or twenty minutes you spend setting up the store or closing things down on your own time can add up to significant lost earnings over time.
What do you do if you suspect that your employer has been violating labor laws and denying you fair compensation for overtime work? First, record everything you can about the time you work. Good records make great evidence in court. Second, contact a labor legal firm, like John H. Haskin & Associates, LLC, about your rights and the legal options you have available.