When most people read in the news about restaurants and other businesses violating New York Labor Law (NYLL) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), they get upset and shake their heads. But there’s a lot of bad news out there, and people’s attention spans are spent. So most people don’t dwell on such stories and develop a visceral understanding of how minor but chronic wage theft degrades the lives of employees.
To that end, let’s humanize this issue. Imagine you’re a waitress who just moved to New York City from Ohio to make it on Broadway. You take a job at a nice restaurant as a day job to pay the bills while you pursue your passion. At the eatery, you earn $15 an hour, after tips, and land 20 hours a week’s worth of work. That means you bring home $300 a week or $1,200 a month from this part time work. (Fortunately, you also have savings to supplement, so you can afford to scrape by in our admittedly pricey city.)
Now let’s say your employer does something shady: he shares your tips illegally and also doesn’t pay overtime when you work overtime. In the grand scheme of things, this “nickel and diming” might not seem so terrible. Let’s say it knocks down your average hourly wage down to $18 an hour. A difference of “just” $2 an hour from what you should get paid.
But let’s extrapolate. You’re losing $2 an hour for 20 hours a week. That’s $40 a week stolen out of your wallet. Over the course of 50 weeks (approximately a year), that’s a full $2,000 that you’ve been shorted.
$2,000 could easily buy you:
• Two brand new high-end Apple computers;
• A used car;
• Several round trip plane tickets to home to see family;
• A $2,000 contribution to a retirement account (which could be compounded and grow to become worth much more than $2,000);
• 50 hours of coaching and skill building at $40 an hour.
In other words, even this seemingly “innocuous” wage theft adds up to a lot of money. Imagine if every six months, your boss employer took your laptop and threw it into the deep-fryer. Would you think that’s fair? Would you demand justice and compensation?
The moral is: wage theft is not a minor matter!
For help understanding whether you have a case, call the experienced New York employment attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum at (212) 688-5640. You can also set up a confidential evaluation at firstname.lastname@example.org.