When you hear the word theft, you probably imagine a person taking something from someone else. However, this isn’t the only way to complete the crime of theft. Withholding goods or services that you rightfully owe to someone is also a form of theft. For example, if your employer is refusing to pay you for hours worked or work performed, this is known as wage theft. Below, we take a closer look at the crime.
Wage Theft Law
Hopefully your employer pays you as expected for the work you perform, but sadly this is not the case across the board. In fact, estimates suggest that employers unlawfully keep about $12 million from nearly 39,000 Minnesota workers each year. However, lawmakers are fighting back. A bill proposed last week would upgrade certain types of wage theft to a felony-level crime, and it would broaden the state’s ability to prosecute employers for the crime.
Under the new law, employers who commit wage theft in excess of $1,000 would be charged with a felony. The bill would also penalize employers who retaliate against employees who report wage theft. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry would also get an additional $4 million to expand its wage theft prevention and investigation efforts.
“The Wage Theft law will level the playing field for Minnesota employers who both play by the rules and create decent jobs for their workers,” said Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink. “The law will also ensure workers receive the wages they have earned. “
Declining to pay employees for work performed is a common type of wage theft, but there are a number of other ways that employers try to get around paying employees what they’ve rightfully earned. For example, some employers may not follow state mandated overtime regulations, which is a form of wage theft. As is classifying certain employees are independent contractors in order to avoid paying them benefits or granting them workers’ compensation coverage.
One point of contention in the upgraded law is that the employee must prove an “intent to defraud.” While this is undoubtedly put in the bill in order to protect employers who unknowingly or accidentally underpay their employees, intent is oftentimes tough to prove. This means it may be tough to get a conviction if the employer can make a case that the wage theft was a result of miscommunication, misclassification or an oversight.
If you or someone you know has been victimized by wage theft, or one of your employees is threatening to take you to court for wage theft, make sure you reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. With the new upgraded charges, it won’t take much for a felony level charge to come your way. Fight back with a good legal defense. Call Appelman Law Firm at (952) 224-2277 for more information on how we can help you, or click here to set up a free case evaluation.