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When Can an Employee Pursue Compensation for Wage Loss?

Posted on in Employment Law

b2ap3_thumbnail_Capture1.JPGBy: Attorney Jaclyn Kallie

There are a variety of employment law disputes that may arise between employers and employees.  Wage and hour disputes can occur if one or more employees believe that an employer has committed wage theft by failing to properly compensate them for the work they performed.  Employers and employees in Wisconsin will need to understand how the state’s laws address these issues and the options available for resolving these disputes.

Common Wage and Hour Claims

Wage loss claims may address multiple types of issues, including:

  • Failure to pay minimum wage – Federal and Wisconsin minimum wage laws require employers to pay their employees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  Regardless of how you are compensated, including salary, hourly, tips, commissions, or any other pay structure, your average hourly pay must be at or above $7.25 per hour.  For example, for tipped employees, the minimum wage is $2.33.  If the tips an employee receives, when combined with their wages, do not add up to $7.25 per hour, the employer must make up the difference to ensure that the employee is receiving at least the minimum wage provided to non-tipped employees.  A limited exception to this is workers under the age of 20 who may be paid an “opportunity wage” of $5.90 per hour for the first 90 calendar days they are employed.  After this period, or after they reach the age of 20, their wages must be increased to $7.25 per hour.  An employee may have a wage claim if an employer failed to pay them the minimum amount required.

  • Not paying employees for all hours worked – This is a common way an employer underpays an employee.  Employees may be required to punch in, be present in the workplace, and complete certain tasks before officially beginning their shift, but they may only be paid for a certain number of hours per day, regardless of the time they actually worked.  Employers may also require employees to work during breaks that are required by law.  In some cases, an employer may even modify an employee’s hours after a shift or round down the hours worked to minimize the amount of pay the employee will receive.  However, in some circumstances an employee may have a wage claim for those duties completed before a shift, after a shift or off-the-clock.

  • Failure to pay overtime - Employers are required to pay “time and a half” for overtime, or 1.5 times the amount of an employee’s hourly wage for every hour worked in excess of 40 hours in a single week, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Wisconsin wage laws.  These requirements do not apply to certain employees, including executives and professionals classified as exempt, outside salespeople, taxi drivers, movie theater employees, and agricultural workers.  Employers may misclassify employees as exempt when their duties do not actually fall within one of the exemptions.  An employee may also have a wage claim for unpaid overtime under Wisconsin law where an employer did not pay overtime wages or the employee was only paid for 40 hours per week, regardless of the actual number of hours worked.

Other possible wage loss claims may include illegal payroll deductions, failure to pay commissions, wage theft or other improper classification of a salaried employee.  If an employee has a valid wage loss claim, Wisconsin law allows for civil penalties against the employer and payable to the employee in the form of 150% of the amount of wages due and unpaid, as well as the costs and expenses associated with bringing the claim.  Employers also face possible criminal penalties for failing to pay wages due and payable and falsely denying the amount or validity of wages due. 

Contact Our Milwaukee Wage Loss Claims Lawyers

If you are an employee who believes that you have not been properly paid for the hours you have worked, or if you are an employer who needs to defend against wage and hour claims by current or former employees, Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP can help you determine your legal options, and we will provide you with representation to help you resolve these matters effectively. Contact our Milwaukee, WI employment law attorneys at 414-271-1440 to set up a confidential consultation today.






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