Recently, there have been some interesting wage fraud and wage theft cases in the news. Below we review two of these cases, both of which focus on wrongdoing by an employer based on not paying wages correctly, either through misclassifying employees or not paying for hours worked.

Construction Worker

Employees Sue and Win
In the first case, a class-action lawsuit against a construction company in the Bay Area was successful in proving wage fraud. The suit, with three lead plaintiffs and 242 class members, alleged that the company took advantage of Spanish-speaking laborers by asking them to perform work off the clock and by discouraging them from taking lunch and rest breaks.

The court found that asking employees to load and unload trucks without paying for those hours was wage fraud. By not paying the workers for that time, the company was trying to avoid paying overtime hours—a violation of California labor law. The suit also alleged that, when receiving their paychecks, the employees were asked to sign forms warranting that the company had paid them properly. Unfortunately, since many of the employees were Spanish-speaking, they did not understand what they were signing.

Since the employees were successful in their suit, the construction company will have to pay the 242 class members $530,000 distributed amongst them throughout the next three years, and the three lead plaintiffs will receive an additional $15,000 for representing the class. After paying attorney’s fees and court costs, the company will pay almost a million dollars for violating the law. To prevent this from happening in the future, the company must also establish a system so that the employees can accurately record their hours worked.

This is an important employment law case because it sends a message to the construction industry that they cannot take advantage of non-English speaking workers without facing consequences!

To read more on this case, click here.

Raiders CheerleadersCheering for Pennies
In our second case review this week, there are now four employee-related lawsuits against NFL teams by their cheer squares with more likely to come. In the suit filed against the Buffalo Bills, five former cheerleaders allege they were paid as little as $105 for the entire season of home games, practices, public appearances and special events. Their unpaid work amounts to around 840 hours each year, in addition to being forced to perform at events, charity appearances and teach at a cheer camp that generated revenue for the team.


The women claim they were misclassified as independent contractors when, because their employer directed their work and exercised control over the results and means of their work, they should have been classified as employees. If the court finds this is true, the plaintiffs should have been paid at least minimum wage for all their hours worked.

The three other suits brought against NFL teams—the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders—by their cheer squads allege similar wrongdoing. All these cases are still pending, but we will keep you updated when there is an outcome.

To read more on this case, click here.

There are resources available from your state government that can help you learn more about these topics, but because employment is a complex topic, it’s usually best to consult a lawyer for help.

photo credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr cc
photo credit: Julie, Dave & Family via Flickr cc

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