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As wage theft spikes, NJ electricians protest use of underpaid workers

About 75 New Jersey electricians gathered in Morristown today to call attention to a contractor's reported use of underpaid workers for electrical work. Apparently, an electrical company there is paying about 20 electricians $10 an hour and no benefits. By contrast, union electrical workers make $48 an hour plus benefits.

While this may be more of a labor rights issue than an actual employment law claim, this is happening the same day news broke that U.S. workers may be enduring a record amount of wage theft. A spike has taken place this year in the number of wage and hour violation lawsuits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Under this federal law, private sector workers must be paid at least $7.25 an hour and they also must be paid overtime of time-and-one-half for every hour worked in excess of 40. Some workers are exempt from overtime, however, if their area of employment meets certain classifications.

So far this year, 7,064 claims og violations have been filed under FLSA. In all of last year, only 7,006 were filed, and that was up from 2,035 cases a decade earlier.

The increase in cases has been attributed to a number of things, including a struggling economy encouraging employers to cut corners, employer's difficulty in knowing whether an employee is legally exempt from overtime or not, and more and more workers being aware of their rights.

Unlike electrical workers, many of New Jersey's employees do not have a union that will act as a go-between with the employer when wage violations may exist. Employees who believe that their employers may be shortchanging them may wish to talk to an employment law attorney about remedying the situation.

Source: NJ.com, "Electrical workers' union protests workers in Morristown," Richard Khavkine, July 26, 2012

Source: MSNBC, "Growing number of workers complain about being shortchanged," Eve Tahmincioglu, July 26, 2012

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