When is a promotion at work not actually a promotion? When does getting a raise cut your earnings? For countless employees across the nation, more often than you might think – and recent lawsuit trends suggest that the problem has only gotten worse. Employees work too hard for their money for our legal system – or our society – to turn a blind eye when employers exploit them.

How Employers Exploit Employees

Companies are in business to make a profit – but so are their hardworking employees, who put in their time and effort to earn a living, support themselves or their family, and reach their dreams. Too often, employers today take advantage of their workers. One of the most unscrupulous ways employers exploit their employees is by giving them a promotion only to take money from them.

A diligent worker might work hours of paid overtime to complete his or her job duties. When the boss offers the employee a promotion and a raise, the worker thinks that his or her efforts are being rewarded. Little do employees know that companies often promote workers to reclassify them as “exempt” employees – which means that they will no longer get paid for the overtime that, in most cases, they are still expected to work. Even if a raise accompanied the promotion, it’s often not enough to make up for the lost overtime pay, and not nearly enough to compensate the worker for the total number of hours they now have to work.

Employee Exploitation Becomes a Growing Trend

In recent years, these deceitful actions on the part of employers have been on the rise. In 2012, USA Today reported that employees had filed 32 percent more lawsuits against employers for forcing them to put in unpaid time – and during the same year, AOL News aptly referred to such practices as “tricks employers use to cheat workers out of overtime.” As a lawyer, I’ve noticed a growing number of labor-and-wage lawsuits, and the attorneys I know who practice labor law have confirmed my suspicions. The evidence extends far beyond anecdotes. Major U.S. corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s have been the subject of recent wage theft lawsuits, The New York Times reported this summer.

This disturbing trend doesn’t end with low-paying retail and fast food jobs. Exploiting workers in this way happens across all industries and levels of career advancement, from minimum-wage earners forced to complete work off-the-clock to professionals who must handle business emails and phone calls outside of regular working hours. Our legal system can’t tolerate wage theft of any kind, no matter how large or successful the employer may be. No matter how much the employee makes or how much the employer saves, it’s simply wrong to essentially steal workers’ wages.