In past decades, a U.S. worker likely worked for one business or company and his or her employer bore the responsibility of training and paying and providing for an employee’s safety at work. Today the relationships between employers and employees have become more fractured and complex and less defined.

In many industries, businesses readily rely upon contract and temporary workers to fulfill certain jobs and tasks. For example, a tech company may employ several contract workers to complete a three-month project and hire temporary workers during busier times of the year. Additionally, the workers who provide security services for the company’s offices are likely to be sub-contractors as are the workers who provide facility management services.

With all of these employees working under the same roof and, by all accounts, working to benefit the same company; disputes related to an employer’s responsibilities to ensure for workers’ safety, fair pay and fair treatment can become complex. For example, what happens if a permanent employee is accused of sexually assaulting a temporary employee or an employee who is a sub-contractor?

This new employment landscape and proliferation of contract, temporary and sub-contract workers has also made it more difficult to identify and enforce wage and hour violations. The U.S. Department of Labor contends that fierce competition between businesses and narrow profit margins has resulted in a surge of cases involving the misclassifying of employees, wage and hour violations and wage theft.

California workers, who believe an employer is violating wage and hour laws related to minimum wages or overtime wages would be wise to discuss their case with an attorney who handles employment law matters.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “The Fissured Workplace,” David Weil, Oct. 17, 2014

The New York Times, “More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft’,” Steven Greenhouse, Aug. 31, 2014