Skip to Content
Philly Employment Lawyer Philly Employment Lawyer

Serving PA and NJ  | 

Free Consultation 267-273-1054

Five Ways Employers Take Unlawful Advantage of Employees

October 5, 2023 General

Employers take advantage of employees every day—in many different ways. Some of these ways are more obvious; others can be subtle. And some are unlawful as well as unfair. Here are some of the most common ways we see employers taking advantage of employees.

By Misclassifying Employees

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), some workers are exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements—and others are not. Exempt employees are supposed to be largely higher-earning salaried workers in management and professional roles. If you’re non-exempt, you must receive at least minimum wage, plus overtime if you work over 40 hours per week.

Employers will sometimes improperly categorize employees as exempt so they don’t have to pay overtime and minimum wage. They may also misclassify you as an independent contractor so they don’t have to provide certain workplace protections and benefits.

By Withholding Overtime Pay and Minimum Wage

If you’re a non-exempt employee, you’re owed time and a half for any hours worked past 40 in a workweek. However, it’s surprisingly common for employers to simply withhold overtime pay. Employees who don’t know their rights or don’t realize they’ve been misclassified are not in a place to challenge these practices.

In addition, as a non-exempt employee you’re also required to make at least minimum wage, which is $7.25 at the federal level (although more in some states). However, not all employees get the minimum wage they’re owed.

Tipped employees are particularly vulnerable to this. Employers are only required to pay tipped employees $2.13 per hour at the federal level (it’s $2.83 in Pennsylvania); as long as the employee earns the rest in tips. If they don’t, the employer is supposed to pay the difference. However, it’s not unusual for employers to withhold that pay.

By Asking You To Work Without Pay 

Employers can sometimes foster a “family” environment that can give rise to exploitative practices. For loyal employees, taking on extra work without pay to help the company out can feel like the right thing to do. It may also be wage theft.

It’s not unusual for employees to face pressure to take on extra hours, skip breaks without compensation, come in on federally mandated holidays, or come in early or stay late without extra pay. This is definitely coercive, and it may be unlawful.

By Threatening Retaliation

Retaliation for filing a complaint or engaging in other protected behavior around whistleblowing is unlawful, but it is also unfortunately one of the most common complaints filed with the EEOC. Retaliation can have a chilling effect, so if you see a co-worker experience it, you may be less inclined to step forward and report unlawful behavior yourself.

Retaliation can include (but is not limited to):

  • Firing you or threatening to fire you
  • Assigning you to a less desirable shift or location
  • Verbal or physical harassment
  • Denying you promotions, raises, or opportunities
  • Giving you negative reviews
  • Putting you under close monitoring

By Making Illegal Deductions to Your Paycheck

Employers sometimes make deductions from your paycheck for legitimate reasons. But there are many deductions that are unlawful, and the laws governing this are complex. Employers must provide proper documentation and follow the rules when making deductions, including ensuring that these deductions don’t make your pay fall below minimum wage.

Employers will sometimes blame the employee for deductions to paychecks, in order to justify paying the employee less. If your employer is blaming you for violating some workplace rule to justify a paycheck deduction, this may be a warning sign. 

Are You Being Taken Advantage Of? Talk to a Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer

If you believe your employer is taking advantage of you, you should talk to a knowledgeable Pennsylvania employment attorney. Your attorney can assess the situation and help you gain restitution in court.

Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at for a free, confidential consultation today.

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.