Common Ways Clothing Retailers Steal Employee Pay
Retailers may steal relatively small amounts from each of their workers, and it can take years before an employee realizes the theft. For companies who rely on a large team of employees, the nickels and dimes can quickly add up, making it highly profitable to underpay their workers. In these cases, workers may qualify for recovery through a class action lawsuit, forcing the employer to pay restitution to each affected employee.
Fashion and apparel stores have been subject to wage class action lawsuits for:
Employers will often send workers home if there are not enough customers to justify extra shifts. While this may be legal, some employers have taken a different route, requiring employees to call before their shifts begin to make sure they are needed. If the employee is not needed for work, he or she may be uncompensated for the portion of the day spent “on call.” This tactic violates California labor laws, which require that employees be paid half of the shift’s pay if they are on call but not needed (and two hours of pay if they work less than one hour after reporting to work).
Any work time that is not accurately recorded can deprive a worker of wages, but it can also mean that a worker will fall short of the overtime threshold. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes it illegal for non-exempt employees to work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay.
Smaller stores may rely on one or two employees per shift, making it difficult or even impossible to provide required 30-minute meal breaks or even 10-minute rest breaks required by California law. If these breaks have not been taken, retailers are required to pay employees at the rate of one hour of pay for each shift where a break was missed.
Retail employees are often required to do work-related activities before or after their scheduled shifts, essentially performing work on their own time. Workers may be forced to wait for a manager to open and close the store, submit to security checks after clocking out, or drop off a bank deposit on their way home.
Requiring In-Store Purchases
Wage theft is not always a deduction from wages earned—in some cases, it can be requiring an employee to spend money in-store. A recent lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch ended in a significant settlement for workers who were required to buy multiple outfits from the company. The apparel chain required employees to wear Abercrombie & Fitch clothing while at work, and demanded that employees buy at the change of each fashion season (about five times a year). Although the clothing was offered at a discounted rate, the purchase requirements significantly lowered employees' pay, forcing some workers’ wages below the state minimum wage.
Reporting and Timeliness Errors
No matter how large the workforce, employers are required by law to provide itemized wage statements and timely payment to all employees. They are also expected to comply with state and federal laws requiring payment of final wages at termination.
If you and your fellow workers have suffered wage theft at the hands of an employer, you may be eligible to form a class action to recover lost wages and penalties. If you have questions about unpaid wages, please contact our unpaid wages lawyer at 866.705.4617.
To find out more about your rights under state and federal labor laws, please feel free to read through our library of articles or order our FREE book, California Truck & Delivery Driver Wage Theft: The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide to Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.