Low wage earners are the most vulnerable members of society. The current administration’s policies have increased their financial insecurity about self storage arlington, with stagnant wages and increasing competition for fewer jobs. Despite these struggles, many low wage workers accept substandard working conditions because they see no alternative. For example, low wage workers often don’t complain about misclassification and wage theft because they are not aware of their rights or feel powerless to act on them.
Wage theft is rampant among low-wage earners who work in occupations such as janitorial services and food service.
1. Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
Under federal and state law, the employer’s control over the means and manner of work is an important factor in determining whether or not a worker is an employee, or an independent contractor. This is because employees are entitled to certain protections under the law, whereas independent contractors have none.
The distinction between an employee and an independent contractor has become increasingly gray in recent decades. The proliferation of subcontracting has made it easy for companies to blur the lines between independent contracting workers and employees. As a result, companies use misclassification to avoid paying taxes, unemployment insurance, and employee benefits like sick leave.
2. Refusal to pay the prevailing wage
In commercial janitorial services, employers often underpay workers by classifying them as independent contractors, paying flat rates for the number of rooms cleaned instead of minimum wage for each hour worked, or not paying for overtime.
Additionally, commercial janitorial companies often delay or deny payment to workers in order to force them into taking on more work. This is especially detrimental to low income families and individuals who face pressures such as high rents and child care costs. Despite this abuse, many janitors fear reprisal if they speak out because their immigration status may be questioned or they may feel that they will lose their job if they complain.
3. Excessive fines
Low wage workers in the food service industry are often required to pay unfair fines, either as a percentage of gross sales or a flat rate per shift.
These fines are sometimes used as a means to coerce workers into not taking sick days, or for simply failing to meet sales quotas. State agencies are charged with ensuring that the companies have not reached an agreement with the worker regarding these fines that is contrary to state law.
4. Refusal to allow workers to take breaks
Minimum wage laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers in order for them to perform their work duties. This includes allowing workers to take a paid lunch break and a paid 30-minute break for each six-hour work period. Many restaurants do not provide adequate breaks, especially for workers who are on the food service industry’s lower end of the pay scale.
5. Wage theft
Wage theft is any act by an employer that deprives employees of their wages, including but not limited to: cutting wages; taking money directly from an employee’s paycheck; refusing to pay overtime; failing to make required deductions or reports; misclassifying someone as an independent contractor; or paying workers less than minimum wage.
6. Denial of benefits
The Affordable Care Act requires that employers with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance to their employees.
However, many low wage employers do not provide this benefit. And even if an employer does offer health insurance, many low-wage workers are unable to afford it, due to the high premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
7. Denial of sick days
Many low wage workers are denied sick days. This is especially true in the food service industry where some restaurants fire workers who call out sick or force them to use their only day off as an unpaid day off. The vast majority of restaurant workers earn so little that they rely on public assistance programs such as food stamps and Medicaid for health care .
8. Wage theft for tipped workers
Tipped workers in New York State do not receive the same protections as other workers. The state’s law allows employers to pay tipped workers less than the full minimum wage, which is currently $9 an hour and will increase to $9.70 an hour by 2017, as long as the worker makes at least $7.50 plus tips an hour. Even though a low-wage worker may be paid $7.50 or more at the end of their shift, they are entitled to minimum wage during each hour worked because it is impossible to know in advance how much they will make in tips each day or week .
9. A lack of benefits
Most low wage workers are not eligible for paid leave, despite the fact that most low-wage workers are in dire need of this benefit. In New York State, only 12% of private sector employees have earned sick days under the law currently in effect. And only 3% have paid family leave through an employer plan.
10. Unsafe working conditions
Many employers in the food service industry do not maintain a safe working environment for their employees. For example, one worker reported that her manager forced her to drink bleach as part of a cleaning task because it is cheaper than cleaning solutions used by other restaurants. She was fired after refusing to drink bleach or use bleach as a cleaning agent at work .