Several weeks ago, we discussed the passing of a wage theft ordinance in Houston that has inspired other Texas communities in dealing with a problem that has been increasing not only in Texas, but across the entire country. According to the National Employment Law Project, instances in which workers are being denied wages or benefits due by their employers are not as rare as people may think. Wage theft can include the following:
- Paying an employee less than minimum wage
- Paying the worker for fewer hours than he or she actually worked
- Forcing the employee to work off the clock without pay
- Taking illegal deductions out of paychecks
- Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor in order to pay him or her less
The Texas Workforce Commission has the responsibility of enforcing the Texas Payday Law, states the Center for Public Policy Priorities. This law is meant to protect workers from unfair wages in the scenarios described above. It also includes wage theft resulting from denying an employee vacation or holiday pay, sick leave, severance pay or commissions and bonuses that he or she may be entitled to according to employment contracts.
Anyone can be the subject of wage theft, although immigrant workers are often more affected than other groups. The construction trade is one that is notorious for wage theft, but the problem affects all industries, from retail and food service to caregiver services and office work.
It is the responsibility of employers in Texas to pay their employees legal wages and to uphold the contracts they signed upon starting employment. This can help to protect companies from wage disputes.