Attorney for Unpaid Wages in New Mexico

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    All workers deserve essential protections at the workplace and a fair wage. A substantial number of New Mexican workers receive low pay and lack benefits. Low-wage employees are at a greater risk of facing discrimination.

    Various federal government and state laws protect New Mexico employees from discrimination, harassment, and wage violations. But annually, millions of Americans receive wages less than the amount they are legally entitled to, making them victims of wage theft.

    If your employer owes you unpaid wages or overtime, it is best to seek legal advice. Consult an attorney for unpaid wages in New Mexico who is well versed in local employment law to guide you through filing a wage claim.

    Below is a comprehensive guide on New Mexico’s wage and hour laws, plus how to file a wage claim.

    What’s Wage Theft?

    Wage theft is any employment practice that involves failure to pay workers their full wages and benefits to which they are legally entitled. It can take various forms, including:

    • Minimum wage violations and underpaid wages
    • Tipped minimum wage violations
    • Overtime wages violations
    • Off-the-clock violations
    • Meal break violations
    • Illegal deductions
    • Employee misclassification violations

    New Mexico has strict rules that govern employment practices and safeguard workers’ rights.

    New Mexico Wage and Hour Laws

    In New Mexico, wage and hour statutes cover various aspects, including breaks, overtime pay, and minimum wage. Employers can suffer costly civil penalties and litigations when violating these laws. Employees have the right to report underpaid wages.

    Minimum Wage Laws in New Mexico

    Higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, the current minimum wage in New Mexico is $11.50 an hour. This minimum wage will increase to $12.00 by the beginning of 2023. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) is tasked with enforcing this hourly rate.

    The New Mexico Minimum Wage Act allows municipalities to set unique rates as long as the rate is higher than the state’s minimum wage rates. Higher premium wage rates may apply in Bernalillo County, Albuquerque, Santa Fe County, and Las Cruces.

    Tipped Workers’ Minimum Wage

    People who regularly earn over $30 in monthly tips are exempt from the $7.50 rate. The minimum wage for tipped employees in New Mexico is $2.80 and will rise to $3.00 in January 2023. But once the tips are added, the worker must have received at least the minimum wage rate.

    The employees should keep all tips that they receive. However, local state laws allow employees to take part freely in tip pooling or sharing arrangements.

    Subminimum Wage

    According to the state minimum wage act, some employees can receive sub-minimum wage rates. Here are some types of employees that can receive rates lower than the minimum.

    • Workers with disabilities: The Director of the Labor and Industrial Division in the New Mexico Department of Labor can allow some employers to receive a valid certificate to pay disabled individuals rates of not less than half the minimum hourly wage.
    • Learners and apprentices: Apprentices and learners are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements. 

    Minimum Wage Exemptions

    Various categories of workers are exempted from New Mexico minimum wage rules. They include:

    • Workers employed in a private home
    • Sales employees who receive commissions
    • Employees of charitable, religious, or non-profit organizations
    • Some agricultural employees

    Companies in the agricultural industry providing utilities, housing, or food to employees can deduct the value of such items from their wages. The exemptions also cover some students working after school hours and seasonal employees certified by the New Mexico Labor Relations Division. New Mexico has no laws enforcing employee raises.

    If your employer fails to pay the minimum hourly rates, an attorney for unpaid wages can help you file a claim.

    Work Hours in New Mexico

    Under New Mexico’s minimum wage act, nonexempt employees should work a maximum of 40 hours every seven days. Extra hours over the 40-hour workweek deserve overtime benefits.

    Breaks and Meal Time

    Local state laws do not cover employee breaks. Businesses, therefore, must adhere to federal rules. You deserve compensation for your time if you work through your guaranteed breaks. You also deserve payment for short breaks lasting five to 20 minutes.

    Federal law doesn’t compel employers to pay for meal breaks. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act considers childcare and exempts nursing mothers from this law, allowing them a reasonable break to express milk for the first year after birth.

    Overtime Laws

    If you work over 40 hours, your employer must pay you one and a half times the regular rate or hourly wage. This can include time spent working on your breaks and activities, such as

    • Replying to job emails
    • Responding to communication from your boss
    • Work-related phone calls

    The Fair Labor Standards Act laws on overtime state that working weekends and holidays will not automatically guarantee a higher wage rate. According to federal law for overtime, you will only get overtime if the hours worked and services offered totaled more than 40 hours.

    Paid Time Off and Sick Pay

    No state or federal rules require employers to provide paid time off and sick pay. But if an employer promises to provide these benefits through an employment contract or agreement, they are legally obliged to grant them.

    Pay and Benefits

    Here are the core aspects of New Mexico employment laws affecting pay and benefits:

    Continuation of Health Care

    New Mexico laws ensure employers offer continuation of healthcare coverage for up to six months after termination of employment. Once the six months elapse, the employer must provide a conversion policy. Some employers may misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits.

    Wage Payment

    New Mexico employees should receive payment on regular paydays, designated in advance. You can get paid twice monthly, with scheduled paydays up to 16 days apart. Unless a contractual agreement states otherwise, exempt employees must receive monthly payments.

    All pay-related information should have a written receipt in New Mexico. Pay statements should show:

    • Employer identity
    • Hours worked
    • Gross pay
    • Listed deductions

    The payment statement or payroll records should also show the type of payout, total wages, and benefits earned.

    Deduction of Wages

    Apart from standard deductions like state and federal taxes, the law prohibits New Mexico employers from making deductions from an employee’s wages without written authorization from the employee or a court order.

    It’s best to note the overlap between federal and state laws provisions. A seasoned lawyer for unpaid wages can help you better understand the federal and state rules on labor.

    Final Pay

    Have you been involuntarily terminated from your employment? If yes, your employer must pay your fixed wages within five days of termination. Suppose your wages are based on criteria such as tasks or commissions; you should receive final pay less than 10 days after termination.

    All employees who quit voluntarily must get paid on the next scheduled payday. If a worker loses their life, all unpaid wages are sent to the worker’s surviving spouse or dependent.

    Filing Wage Claims

    The state agency tasked with enforcing payment of wages, hourly minimum wage, and overtime laws under the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act is the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS). Workers can file a wage claim to attempt the recovery of unpaid overtime wages or other compensations from current or previous employers.

    Who Can File a Wage Claim?

    Any person who has not received payment for wages earned can file a wage claim. Before filing a claim for labor disputes, you must have made a recent demand for payment from your employer. After your boss or company declines or fails to pay you as agreed, you can file a claim. 

    Employees under bargaining agreements can only file for wage or overtime claims if their unions have exhausted all procedures when trying to recover unpaid wages.

    How to File a Wage Claim in New Mexico

    Here are the steps to filing a claim for unpaid wages in New Mexico:

    1. Download a claim form from the NMDWS website or pick it up at their office.
    2.  Complete and submit the form through the United States Postal Service, email, fax, or in-person delivery.
    3. Consult an attorney for unpaid wages if you have difficulty filling out the form.

    Remember to include information like the hours worked and the rate of pay promised by your employer to avoid processing delays. For minors under 18 years, a parent or legal guardian must sign the wage claim form.

    Will You Have a Hearing?

    If both parties fail to achieve an initial resolution, NMDWS may call for an administrative hearing that you must attend. The agency will examine the explanations and evidence from you and your employer and decide on the matter.

    If your claim goes to court, you will probably want to hire an attorney for unpaid wages to represent you. A lawyer can help you gather evidence to build a solid case so that you can make a more compelling argument in court.

    Taking Legal Action

    You have the right to take legal action against any employer because of unpaid sales commissions or wages. If you choose the legal route, you can file a civil action lawsuit in your county’s Magistrate or Metropolitan Court.

    The court will enter a judgment against your employer if the evidence proves your claim is justified. When the judgment is in your favor, and the employer refuses to pay potential damages, the NMDWS will help recover your wages or unpaid sales commissions.

    Seek Legal Recourse

    There are strict timelines for filing wage and violation charges in New Mexico. Because of the statute of limitations on court actions, consult a labor law attorney as soon as possible to forge a way forward after labor law violations.

    If you are a victim of wage and hour law violations and want to take civil action against your employer, get in touch with us for legal advice on how to recover your unpaid wages.

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