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What are the most common ways employees are cheated out of pay?

Most employers in New York pay their employees what they're owed. And most employees can expect to be paid on a regular basis.

But it's important to be aware of certain unlawful practices that cheat workers out of their regular pay and overtime. So what are the most common wage-and-hour violations?

Failure to Pay Tipped Workers

Special rules apply to how tipped workers are paid. If you're a waiter who works for tips, your employer can pay you a basic wage that is less than the legal minimum wage -- that is, if your overall pay, including tips, comes to or exceeds the minimum wage. If your pay, including tips, doesn't reach the minimum wage, your employer is required to pay you the difference.

Also, if you're a server at a restaurant and your employer requires you to do work that isn't tip-related before or after shifts, you may be owed additional money for that time. The food and hospitality industry is notorious for underpaying workers. Talk to an employment lawyer about your options if you believe your employer isn't paying you what you're owed.

Unpaid Commissions

Many employees receive payment in the form of commissions. For example, stockbrokers, real estate agents, headhunters and salespeople may be owed commissions for the work they do.

Employers have a contractual obligation to pay commissions in a timely fashion after the commission is earned. Unfortunately, some employers fail to pay the proper amount of commission or fail to pay in a timely manner. In such a case, a commissioned employee may have grounds to take the employer to court.

Unpaid Overtime

In New York, if you are a nonexempt employee who works more than 40 hours in a week, you are owed 1.5 times your regular rate of pay for every hour over 40.

Unfortunately, some employers knowingly or unknowingly miscalculate overtime hours or fail to pay the correct amount. Cases of unpaid overtime can involve a substantial amount of money, and employees need to know their options for getting the money they're owed for the time they've worked. A New York employment law attorney can explain those options.

Employee Misclassification

This happens when an employer incorrectly classifies an employee as an independent contractor or otherwise exempt (for example, as a salaried manager.)

Exempt employees are not afforded the same overtime rights as nonexempt hourly employees, and some employers take advantage of that by misclassifying workers as managerial or independent contractors.

For example, if your employer "promoted" you to a managerial position, but your duties didn't change and you're still doing the work of a non-managerial employee, you may have been misclassified. Employers sometimes do this to avoid paying the newly "managerial" employee overtime wages. The result is that the employee ends up working long hours without overtime pay.

If you suspect that you've been misclassified as a manager or an independent contractor, talk to an employment lawyer about your situation. You may be owed back pay for the hours you've worked.

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