If you believe that your employer has not paid you all that you have earned, you may have the basis to file a legal claim against your employer under state or federal law. Under federal law, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that you must be paid for every hour that you work, that you have the right to earn a minimum of the federal minimum wage, to limit the deductions from your paycheck and to receive all of your tips other than those that are paid into valid tip pools. In New Jersey, workers have the right to earn the higher state minimum wage of $8.44 per hour. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which is the same as what is required by the FLSA. An employment law attorney at Swartz Swidler may help you to recover the compensation to which you are rightfully entitled by filing a claim for unpaid wages.
Violations of the minimum wage
You are entitled to receive at least the minimum wage. In Pennsylvania and federally, the minimum wage requirement is $7.25 per hour. New Jersey has a higher minimum wage rate of $8.44 per hour, meaning that workers in the state are entitled to receive the higher state minimum wage instead of the federal minimum wage.
Employers that pay the minimum wage but take deductions that make your pay less than the required minimum are in violation of the law. Some employers do this by not paying tipped employees enough. Under the FLSA, employers are allowed to pay tipped workers $2.13 per hour if the tips that the employee earns bring his or her pay up to the minimum wage amount. If the employee does not earn enough tips to make his or her pay equal to the minimum wage, the employer is in violation of the law if it doesn’t make up the difference. In New Jersey and under the FLSA, the minimum cash wage is $2.13 before tips. In Pennsylvania, it is $2.83 per hour.
Employers also sometimes take too much money from their workers’ paychecks in deductions. These deductions may include payment for debts that the employee owes to the employer or the costs of employment-related expenses. If they force the paycheck to fall below the minimum wage, the employer is in violation of the law.
Employers must pay their employees for all of the hours that they work. This may be violated when employers do the following:
- Asking employees to work off the clock either before clocking in or after they have clocked out for the day
- Making employees work through meal and rest breaks
- Failing to pay for classing and training programs
- Failing to pay for work-related travel time
- Not paying workers for waiting time when the employee must remain on the premises
- State laws about paydays and final paychecks
The federal FLSA does not have any requirements for employers to pay their workers within certain time periods or on certain days. In New Jersey, employers are required to pay their workers at least every two weeks. In Pennsylvania, employers are required to pay their workers a minimum of twice a month. In both states, employees must receive all of the compensation that is owed to them on their next regularly scheduled pay dates after they have left their jobs.
Employers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not required to offer their employees paid vacation time. Employers who do offer vacation time to their employees are required to cash out the accrued balances and pay their employees for it when they leave.
Tips and paycheck deductions
In Pennsylvania, employers are only allowed to make deductions from their employees’ paychecks that are for the benefit of the employee. This means that it is unlikely that employers would be allowed to deduct for tools that are required for the job, uniforms, damages to property and others. New Jersey specifically prohibits employers from taking deductions from employee paychecks for uniforms and uniform maintenance.
In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the tips that employees receive are generally considered to belong to them. Both states do allow employers to establish tip pools to which employees may be required to contribute reasonable amounts to be shared among a pool of employees. Employers may not require their workers to contribute unreasonable amounts or to pay enough of their tips into the pools that their wages fall below the minimum wage.
Contact Our Lawyers
If you believe that your employer has violated the federal or state wage laws, you should start by complaining to the company. You can talk to the human resources department about the issue and follow your company’s procedures for complaints. If the problem is not addressed, contact an attorney at Swartz Swidler about filing an unpaid wages claim.