New Orleans Employment Lawyers
Have you been paid less than the minimum wage for work in Louisiana? Have you not been paid overtime you believe you are owed? Did a business close down before paying you wages that you earned? Has your employer misclassified you as an “independent contractor” or supervisor/assistant manager, etc. in order to avoid paying you overtime? Has an employer asked you to work off the clock or required you to hand over your tips?
If any of these have happened to you or a family member, you may have been the victim of wage theft. Seek the advice of an experienced Louisiana employment law attorney who can help you understand your legal issues and provide legal representation to help you recover the wages you earned and any other compensation you may be due.
What Is Wage Theft?
Any time a worker is not paid wages (in part or in full) that they have earned, that is wage theft.
Wage theft is a serious problem for workers in Louisiana and across the United States. According to a 2017 study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, in the country’s 10 most populous states, more than $8 billion in wages was stolen from 2.4 million workers. Nationwide, the total is estimated to be more than $15 billion each year. That’s nearly as much as all property theft combined. According to the study, a typical worker who experiences wage theft is cheated out of $3,300 a year. It’s easy to see how unpaid overtime, “off the clock” work, or “pooling tips” can really add up.
Different Types of Wage Theft
What makes wage theft so hard to catch is that there are so many different ways that it can happen. Unless you are aware of each type and are monitoring your wages diligently, it is easy to miss. As a result, many employees don’t immediately notice when it has happened to them, which creates a delay in filing a claim.
The sooner you can file, the better, because there is a limited time to pursue a wage theft claim. Federal laws allow only 180 days from the date of the incident to file a claim to recoup your losses. To avoid this delay, you should always pay close attention to your pay stubs to make sure your wages are accurate for each pay period. If you have a question or notice a problem, report it right away so your employer has a chance to fix it.
Here are some of the more common examples of wage theft to look out for:
- Not being paid for all hours worked (shorted hours)
- Not being paid at all for the hours you worked
- Non-payment of the overtime hours you worked
- An employee being improperly classified to avoid payment of overtime hours
- Not receiving your last paycheck from your employer
- Not being paid the minimum wage
- Not being paid agreed-upon wages
- Paycheck bounces
- Paycheck not being given or deposited on time
If any of these have happened to you, then you may have been the victim of wage theft. As a worker, you have rights. Employment laws are in place to protect workers; workers are entitled to pursue a claim against their employer to recover lost wages and other damages. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can also penalize your employer for breaking the law. An employment attorney in New Orleans knows the federal and state laws that apply to employment matters and hour disputes, so you can make sure your claim is filed on time and properly.
How do I Sue for Wage Theft?
A wage theft lawsuit may be an option in situations where employers refuse to pay an employee the wages they are owed and a favorable settlement cannot be reached out of court. If the situation gets to the point where a lawsuit is required, they will likely owe you interest on the wages as well.
To bring a wage theft claim or sue for wage theft, you should seek the legal advice of a skilled employment law lawyer with a record of recovering wages for workers. With an employment attorney on your side, you are much more likely to get your claim started in a timely manner and have all the supporting evidence and documentation that you will need to ensure your claim is successful.
How To Prove Wage Theft
As the plaintiff, you will need to provide evidence and documentation to support your claim. In order to understand whether you have a wage theft claim, you will need a clear record of the hours you worked, the agreed-upon wage, and the amount that you were actually paid.
Bring this information to a wage theft attorney in New Orleans who has experience in handling wage theft claims. The attorney will let you know what other documentation you will need to prove your case, such as:
- A log of the dates and hours you worked
- Timecards or timesheets
- A complete list of any breaks you took while working
- Employee handbook
- Employment contract (to identify your employment classification, pay period, and possibly the agreed-upon wage)
- For construction or informal jobs: pictures of the job site, evidence of how long/how many hours you worked on the project, and the current project status
- Any written or other documentation that shows your agreed upon regular wage
What Workers Need to Know About Wages
Legally, employees must be paid for all work they performed at the rate agreed upon with their employer. The agreed-upon rate can come in different forms; common examples are an hourly wage, salary, flat rate for a project, piece rate for the number of units turned in, commission, or some combination of these.
When an employee is paid an hourly wage, their employer must pay them for all hours worked. Hours worked is defined by dol.gov as “…all the time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer’s premises or at any other prescribed place of work. Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered or permitted) to work.” This includes travel time (except for the regular commute to and from work), the time it takes to put on and take off uniforms or PPE required for work, the time it takes to log in to the system you need to work, and required training and meeting times.
Employees who work “unauthorized” hours or overtime are still legally owed wages for the hours they worked, though the employee may be disciplined for working without the employer’s permission. It is not legal for employees to volunteer to work for for-profit companies without pay, nor can they choose, or be required by their employer, to work “off the clock.”
No matter what type of compensation is agreed upon, the rate must be at least equal to the current state minimum wage. In addition, most employees who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid overtime.
The Minimum Wage in Louisiana
Louisiana has not adopted a state minimum wage in its labor laws. Instead, workers in the state are entitled to the federal minimum wage which is currently $7.25 per hour for covered, “nonexempt” employees. Non-exempt employees are workers who have not specifically been hired as managerial employees who receive a set salary rather than hourly pay and so are exempt from overtime and other rules.
The minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour in direct compensation, as long as this amount plus tips equals at least the minimum wage, the employee keeps all tips, and the employee regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips.
Employers whose workers earn close to the minimum wage who ask those workers to work off the clock are violating federal minimum wage law, as are employers who pay the tipped minimum wage and ask workers to hand over any part of their tips, or who don’t ensure their worker’s tips and wages add up to $7.25 an hour.
Living Wage for City Contract Workers in New Orleans
While Louisiana state law currently prohibits city and local governments from setting a minimum wage for private employers, the City of New Orleans has a living wage ordinance that went into effect in 2016. The ordinance requires employers who do significant business with the city to pay covered employees a living wage and provide them with at least seven days of paid leave each year.
Employers covered under the ordinance include companies with city contracts over $25,000 a year and organizations that receive more than $100,000 in municipal financial assistance a year. The city’s current living wage is set each year according to the consumer price index and is currently $11.19 per hour.
If you work for a city of New Orleans contractor or organization that receives grants from the city and you have not been paid the living wage or given seven days of paid leave per year, you may be entitled to back pay and other compensation.
Misclassified As a Manager Or “Independent Contractor” In Louisiana?
Misclassification is one of the most common and pernicious forms of wage theft. By misclassifying an employee as an “independent contractor,” bad employers avoid paying overtime and exclude workers of many federal worker protections, such as minimum wage, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance guarantees.
“Independent contractor” misclassification is a common problem in the construction, real estate, home care, and trucking industries. For example, in 2019, one framing and drywall contractor operating in Louisiana was ordered to pay $178,766 in back wages to 108 employees for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by misclassifying employees and not paying them overtime.
Louisiana Employer Withholding Final Paycheck
According to Louisiana law, an employer must pay all owed wages within 15 days after employment ends or on the next regular payday, whichever comes first. This applies whether you quit, or have been terminated or laid off. If your former employer fails to meet this deadline, you can be awarded up to one day’s wages on top of what is owed to you for every day your final paycheck is late (up to 90 days).
Other Wage and Hour Violations in Louisiana
Other methods employers have used to cheat workers out of wages include illegal paycheck deductions and off-the-clock work. Expenses like worker’s compensation insurance and unemployment insurance are supposed to be paid directly by the employer and not passed on to workers as a line item on their pay stub, in the way that federal and state income taxes and Medicare are. It’s always a good idea to inspect your pay stub to make sure your hours and wages are correct and any deductions make sense to you.
If your employer regularly asks you to work through your break, come in early without clocking in, or work after you’ve clocked out, your employer could be committing a wage and hour violation and may even be violating your civil rights. It can feel uncomfortable to say no to such requests (like you’re not being a “team player”), it could even feel like your job is on the line if you refuse. But your boss asking you to work for free is taking advantage and it is stealing. You, your family, and your coworkers deserve better. And you can seek compensation for all your unpaid wages and up to that amount in additional compensation for liquidated damages (for financial hardship you’ve experienced because of the stolen wages).
How To Recover Your Wages in Louisiana
If you are owed wages, you can either file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor or file a lawsuit. Lawyers experienced in Louisiana employment law can help you decide the best course of action, and file a claim or a lawsuit seeking to collect your unpaid wages. If you win your case, the judge can make your employer pay some or all of your attorneys’ fees.
Why You Need an Employment Law Firm Fighting for You
Employment lawyers help fight for the rights of workers. It is different from business law in that it focuses on the laws that govern relationships between employers and employees. In practical terms, this means:
- Reviewing employee handbooks and employment contracts.
- Fighting for victims of wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation, workplace sexual harassment, and employment discrimination
- Violations of the family and medical leave act
- Reviewing contract issues with employee benefits such as health care insurance, retirement savings plans, non-compete agreements
- Helping clients avoid mistakes that can stall the claims process or cause their claims to be rejected.
- Representing employees before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Providing guidance on employee rights, and consulting on compliance with the EEOC, OSHA, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Reviewing complaints or cases against an employer and advising about next steps with a clear course of action.
- Negotiating settlements on their client’s behalf.
- Pursuing torts and legal action on behalf of clients who were denied their rights
- Taking cases to trial and challenging current employment law, if necessary
Call Wage Theft Lawyer Charbonnet Law Firm Today
At Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC we are dedicated to fighting for the rights and the financial recoveries of people who are the victims of wage theft. You worked hard for your wages and have every right to be paid what you are owed – plus interest!
With over 50 years of legal experience serving families in the New Orleans area and surrounding Louisiana communities such as Baton Rouge, we have the knowledge and experience you want on your side. Our firm takes pride in providing clients with personalized legal services tailored to individual needs. If you have any questions or you’re wondering if you have a winnable case, call our New Orleans law office at (504) 294-3825.
New Orleans Office: 3750 South Claiborne Ave New Orleans, LA 70125
Metairie Office: 501 Clearview Parkway Metairie, LA 70001
We offer free consultations, and, like all of our personal injury clients, you will not pay any New Orleans attorney’s fees unless we win your wage theft claim on your behalf. No win, no fee! Guaranteed.
We value every client relationship. We are here to walk you through your claim and fight for justice on your behalf, no matter which practice area your case falls under. At Charbonnet, our first priority is helping you recover what is owed to you for your hard work. We will help you understand your employment law case, your options, and how to move forward to get the best possible outcome for your claim.
You deserve the peace of mind of having our trusted, skilled team of employment lawyers in New Orleans fighting for you. Call or contact Charbonnet Law Firm today to speak with a member of our skilled team of labor attorneys.