Common Ways Employers Break Minimum Wage Laws

Tip pools

Both Ohio and Federal law authorize employers to pay less than minimum wage to tipped employees. This is often referred to as "tipped minimum wage." The law also authorizes “pooling” tips and dividing those tips among other “tipped employees.”

Employers can get into trouble with tip pools by including a non-tipped employee in the pool. This often takes the form of an owner taking a percentage of the pool or a manager sharing the pool. Including a non-tipped employee in the pool invalidates the tip pool.

When a tip pool is invalidated in this way, tipped employees must be paid actual minimum wage, not tipped minimum wage. This is true even if the tips the employee receives would normally equal more than minimum wage.

Employees who are subject to an illegal tip pool are entitled to receive the difference between minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage they received, for each hour worked (regardless of the tips they received). In addition, employees may be entitled to liquidated damages plus attorney's fees and costs. You can find more information regarding tip pools here.

Withholding paychecks

With some regularity, employers withhold employees' paychecks for various reasons. For example, an angry employer may withhold an employee’s final paycheck. Or an employer may withhold a paycheck until an employee does something (like return a key to the store).

An employee is entitled to receive their paycheck. Paychecks may not be withheld or held for ransom (like until an employee signs some paperwork).

Like other minimum wage violations, if your paycheck is illegally withheld, you may be entitled to minimum wage, liquidated damages, and attorney's fees. Ohio's prompt payment statute may provide further relief.

Work off the clock

Sometimes, employers ask employees to perform work "off the clock." This situation is probably one of the most common wage and hour violations (and happened to me as a kid at my first job).

In my case, this illegal request typically came in the form of the manager saying something like “You’ve worked your six hour shift. Go ahead and clock out, then finish sweeping the floor before you head home.” In my youth, I thought that I would really show what a great worker I was by doing the extra work.

In fact, this really boils down to one thing: A company is helping their bottom line by taking advantage of already underpaid workers. This is stealing the wages, time, and labor from one person to pad the pockets of another.

Other examples of “off-the-clock work” include:

Asking an employee to perform some work during their unpaid lunch break (“While you’re eating, could you handle the cash register?”)

Asking the employee to perform work before or after their shift (“Before you come in, could you pick something up from another store?”)

Expecting an employee to do certain preparatory work before their shift (“Before you clock in, please get these tools ready and put on your safety gear.”)

It is important for employees to remember that “work” includes all work done for an employer, not just what your employer tells you to do. As long as you are working for the benefit of the employer, you are entitled to be paid for that work. The employer may not get out of paying you by claiming “I never told him to stay after his shift and count the cash register drawer.”

Note: As of January 1, 2015, I have joined Markovits, Stock & DeMarco as Of Counsel. I am still available to assist you with any minimum or overtime issues you may have. I have experience with class and collective actions to collect unpaid wages on behalf of employees. My direct number is 614-604-8759.