How Victims Of Wage Theft Can Fight Back: Fee-Shifting Protections and the FLSA

Mara Siegel , February 18, 2020

My Employer Didn’t Pay Me Correctly but I Can’t Afford an Attorney, Now What?

Have you ever worked somewhere that didn’t pay you on time, or didn’t pay your wages properly? If yes, you probably talked about it with a friend or family member who suggested you pursue legal action. Your response may have been that you couldn’t afford a FLSA attorney, you didn’t have the time to pursue it, or that the time and cost it would take wouldn’t be worth it since it wasn’t THAT big of a deal. If you’ve ever been the victim of wage theft, you may have found yourself in this difficult position. The big question facing most victims of wage theft is- is pursuing this legally worth the money that I lost?

You are not alone in this experience. Fortunately, this does not have to be your reality and there are attorneys that will help you with no cost out of pocket to you!

Under the federal law, 29 U.S.C.sec216(b), recovery of attorney’s fee is a required aspect of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violation claim. In simpler terms, this means when a successful FLSA claim is filed, the Court can make it the employer’s responsibility to pay for the cost of your attorney’s services. This is incredibly important for victims of wage theft and other violations of the FLSA to be aware of, as it can be the deciding factor for many who are on the fence about pursuing legal action.

What Does This Mean for Me?

As the victim of wage theft, these rules and guidelines help ensure that even the most seemingly harmless cases (emphasis on ‘seemingly’) are taken seriously by the American legal system. Often, the monetary value of a wage theft complaint is less than the potential cost of legal assistance for resolving the issue. This shifting of the attorney fees from the employee to the employer in wage theft cases is meant to eliminate the issue that may deter employees from pursuing legal action. With the federal minimum wage set at $7.25, many hourly employees are not capable of retaining legal counsel, and the fee shifting structure of the law eliminates that concern. The FLSA allows employees an opportunity to fight against an employer who has done them wrong, no matter how small the amount of wages stolen. However, it is also important to note that the statute necessities that a plaintiff receive a judgement in their favor, rather than the employers favor, for the fee-shifting to be upheld by a court.

Okay, I Want to Take My Claim to Court

Hopefully, this information has given you some peace of mind and let you know the most important part of all of this: you deserve to be treated fairly by your employer. Your next step is to contact an attorney and discuss your case. The Paycheck Warriors at Barkan Meizlish, LLP are here to help. Send us an email at info@barkanmeizlish.com or give us a call at (800)-274-5297 for more information.

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