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Victim of wage theft? You have rights

Have you ever opened your paycheck and thought that it seemed light? Maybe your Santa Barbara employer asked you to work overtime but the pay isn't reflected in your check. Or, maybe your boss asked you to work off the clock for some reason and you are wondering if you can refuse without risking your job. Maybe you are working at a restaurant and your employer is keeping your tips. Whatever the reason for these lost wages, you might have some options to recover them.

If you are not receiving the minimum wage or overtime pay that the law requires, there are steps you can take to get the money you worked hard for. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage. Employees who work overtime (more than 40 hours per week) should receive "time and a half." If an employer fails to do this, the employee can file a complaint for the backpay. Here are a few things you should know about wage theft and how to fight back.

Wage theft

Between 2010 and 2014, the state of California successfully recovered over $1 billion in wages from companies that were in violation of the FLSA. Unfortunately, wage theft made a major leap after the start of the 21st century. This means that you or someone you know may have been the victim of wage theft.

File a report

If you are a qualified employee under the requirements of the FLSA, you can file a formal complaint for the wages that your employer has wrongly withheld. For example, if you work as a cook and your employer is paying you less than the California minimum wage or the federal minimum wage, you can fill out the report and file it with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.

Required information

In your complaint, you will have to provide certain information. For example, you will have to list your contact information as well as your employer's. You must provide a description of the work you do along with your job title. You will have to include how you get paid, your pay rate, a description of the violation and the date each violation occurred.

Statute of limitations

Like with many legal proceedings, there is a statute of limitations when it comes to filing a claim for wages wrongfully withheld. In general, the FLSA allows you two years to file a claim for backpay. In cases where your employer committed a willful violation, you have three years to take action. However, you should file a complaint as soon as possible to recover your rightful wages.

If you have been the victim of wage theft or your employer mistakenly paid you incorrectly, remember that you have rights and options. You might be able to take legal action to recover the money you earned.

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