August 27, 2019

Employment Law

Wage Theft: How Are You Protected?

August 27, 2019 – Each year, nearly 40,000 Minnesotans lose about $12 million in unpaid wages. But what is wage theft? Oftentimes, wage theft occurs in the form of unpaid overtime, withholding paychecks and misclassifying workers as independent contractors. While Minnesota has several laws that protect employees’ wage and hour rights—including the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (“MN-FLSA” and its federal equivalent), the Minnesota Payment of Wages Act, the Minnesota Prevailing Wage Act and the Equal Pay Act, which in turn set minimum wage standards, require overtime for non-exempt workers and mandate equal pay for equal work—many employers fail to follow these law and retaliate against workers for asserting their rights. With newly enacted and strengthened laws in place, more employers will be held accountable.

This summer in Minnesota, additional wage and hour protections went into effect designed to crack down on wage theft by providing more enforcement resources, stronger penalties for wage and hour violations, and the ability of employees to sue employers who retaliate against them for asserting their rights. Importantly, wage theft is now a crime and has been added to the criminal definition of theft for which employers can now be criminally prosecuted.

This new legislation adds protections and enforcement under the MN-FLSA and other wage-related employment laws. Under these new laws, employees must now:

  • Receive written notice at the start of employment about the terms of their employment that includes, but is not limited to: status as exempt or non-exempt, rate of pay, pay schedule, information about vacation/sick/PTO time, and a list of all wage deductions
  • Receive payment of all wages, including salary, earnings and gratuities at least once every 31 days, and all commissions earned at least once every three months
  • Not be retaliated against for asserting their wage and hour rights, including: seeking overtime pay, as well as reporting unlawful wage deductions, unlawful tip-pooling or tip-sharing, off-the-clock violations, and failure to pay equal pay for equal work.

Can my employer fire me for seeking unpaid wages?

While many employees hesitate to report that they are owed wages out of concern of retaliation by their employer, under Minnesota law, employers are prohibited from terminating or taking adverse action against an employee for seeking unpaid wages or asserting their rights under wage and hour laws. Whether the employee makes a report to the employer, files a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Labor or notifies the employer of their intent to file a complaint, the employee is protected from any form of retaliation for exercising their rights.

What is wage theft?

Minnesota’s Wage Theft Law recognizes the seriousness and frequency with which employers fail to pay all wages. Wage theft occurs when employers do not pay their employees what is owed to them for work they performed. This includes a failure to page all wages, salary, gratuities, earnings and commissions at the employee’s rate of pay or the rate of pay. Employers committing wage theft are not only liable for damages and lost wages, they also face stiff civil penalties and criminal sanctions.

What can I do if I haven’t been paid all my wages or am being retaliated against for requesting them?

Employees who believe their employer has retaliated against them for seeking payment of their wages or has violated their wage and hour rights should contact an employment law attorney specializing in wage and hour law to understand their rights and protections. Our employment lawyers offer free initial case evaluations and help assess the best course of action for your situation.

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers
Wanta Thome PLC is committed to protecting the wage and hour rights of all Minnesota employees. If you believe you have not been paid all wages owed, had wages deducted without your permission, been misclassified as an independent contractor, or believe your wage and hour rights have been violated, our employment lawyers want to hear from you. Contact us to discuss your rights.