What Are Examples of Employer Theft in the Workplace?

What Are Examples of Employer Theft in the Workplace?
Written by Medhaavi Mishra

While most people associate theft with stealing physical objects, a significant yet often overlooked issue is employer theft in the workplace. This occurs when an employer deprives their employees of rightful wages or earned hours. Employer theft not only harms individual workers financially but also creates an unfair advantage for businesses that exploit their workforce. 

Discover the various forms of employer theft cases and empower employees to recognize these practices and take action to protect themselves.

Categories of Employer Theft: Wage Theft and Hour Theft

Employer theft can be broadly categorized into two main types: wage theft and hour theft.

  • Wage Theft: This involves any practice that reduces an employee’s rightful earnings. This can be intentional or unintentional, but regardless of intent, it deprives employees of the compensation they deserve.
  • Hour Theft: This occurs when employers manipulate or steal employee work hours, resulting in them being paid less than what they’ve actually worked.

Examples of Wage Theft: Misappropriation of Earned Wages

Wage theft encompasses a range of practices that exploit employees and deny them fair compensation. Here are some common examples:

  • Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors: Some employers misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes, benefits, and overtime. However, this classification is meant for truly independent individuals, not those working under the direct control and supervision of the company. Misclassified employees lose access to crucial benefits like health insurance, unemployment benefits, and workers’ compensation.
  • Minimum Wage and Overtime Violations: Federal and state laws mandate minimum wage and overtime pay for eligible employees. Wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay the minimum wage for all hours worked, or deny overtime pay for hours exceeding the standard workweek.
  • Illegal Deductions from Paychecks: Employers are only authorized to deduct certain items from your paycheck, such as taxes, government-mandated contributions, or previously agreed-upon deductions like health insurance premiums. However, some employers might make unauthorized deductions for things like uniforms, damaged equipment, or even company lunches. These deductions are illegal and can significantly reduce your take-home pay.
  • Off-the-Clock Work: Many employers expect employees to answer emails, complete work tasks, or be available outside of their scheduled working hours without compensation. This “off-the-clock” work constitutes wage theft, as employees are essentially performing job duties without being paid.
  • Wage Theft Through Pay Errors: While unintentional, errors in calculating pay can also result in wage theft. These might include miscalculations for overtime hours, missed punches, or incorrect pay rates. It’s important for employees to review their paystubs carefully and report any discrepancies to ensure they receive their full, rightful pay.

Examples of Hour Theft: Stealing Your Time

Hour theft involves manipulating employee work hours to underpay them. Here are some common examples:

  • Rounding Down Work Hours: Some employers have a policy of rounding down employee work hours to the nearest quarter or half hour. While seemingly insignificant, these seemingly minor deductions can accumulate over time, resulting in lost wages for employees.
  • Time Card Manipulation: In some cases, employers or managers might pressure employees to alter their time cards to reflect fewer hours worked than they actually did. This can be done through coercion or intimidation, forcing employees to falsify their records to avoid negative consequences.
  • Meal and Break Time Violations: Employees are legally entitled to unpaid meal and rest breaks throughout their workday. However, some employers might deny employees their mandated breaks or even require them to work through their breaks. This not only deprives employees of their rest time but also constitutes hour theft, as they are essentially working unpaid during their designated break periods.

Employer Retaliation: Know Your Rights

It’s important to understand that employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report wage theft. This includes actions like termination, demotion, or reducing work hours. If you suspect wage theft and report it to your employer or the relevant authorities, you are protected by law.


Employer theft, through wage theft and hour theft, is a serious issue that can significantly impact employees’ financial well-being. By recognizing the different forms of employer theft, employees can be more vigilant and take action to protect themselves. If you suspect you’re a victim of wage theft, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Department of Labor or seek legal counsel. Knowing your rights and taking action can help ensure you receive the fair compensation you deserve. Remember, a healthy employer-employee relationship is built on trust and fair treatment. By working together and raising awareness about employer theft, we can create a more equitable workplace environment for all.

Eradicate Employer Theft

Do you suspect you might be a victim of employer theft in the workplace? Have you noticed discrepancies in your paychecks or been pressured to work off the clock? Understanding your rights and taking action is crucial. Sorasak Law Office specializes in labor law and can help you navigate complex workplace issues. Visit their website at to schedule a consultation and discuss your options with an experienced attorney. Don’t let your employer steal your hard-earned wages; fight for what you deserve!

About the author

Medhaavi Mishra