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4 Tricks Bosses Use to Pay You Less, and How to Spot Them

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Many of us want to see the best in others, our employers included. Perhaps we feel loyalty to the boss that hired us when we didn’t have much experience, or we’re simply grateful for the opportunities we’ve been afforded at work. No matter how much you like— or feel indebted to— your boss, they might not be paying you what you deserve. Luckily, there are ways to spot these tricks, and ensure your employer isn’t taking advantage of you.

  • Classifying you as an “independent contractor” rather than an employee.

According to “Not Getting Paid Enough? 3 Dirty Tricks Employers Use to (Illegally) Rip You Off,” via LinkedIn, this is an all-too-common trick employers use to pay you less. In actuality, independent contractors work for themselves, but sometimes, employers classify someone they treat as an employee this way — and in doing so, avoid having to pay overtime, taxes, unemployment insurance, etc. If you’re not truly an independent contractor, but think you might be classified as such by your employer, you can take a look at the IRS site for more details regarding the distinction.

  • You might not be getting paid for all the time you’re actually working.

The aforementioned piece on LinkedIn also brings up a great point about not being paid for unscheduled work. While this might affect hourly employees more than salaried ones, it can be a more common problem than you’d expect. For example, if an employee has to come in before, or stay after, a scheduled shift, they must be paid for that time. However, if you’re a salaried employee who is expected to answer late-night texts from your boss or constantly having to check work emails when you’re not on the job, it may be a problem you face, too.

  • Incentives that keep you from seeking out another job.

Free Code Camp’s “Getting a Raise Comes Down to One Thing: Leverage” calls these incentives “golden handcuffs.” Essentially, these are traps disguised as positive things, such as signing bonuses that an employee must pay back if they leave within a certain period, or stock options that are too expensive to actually exercise. If you find yourself wanting to leave but feeling trapped by a situation like this, it’s a pretty sure sign your employer has taken advantage of you.

  • Titles that aren’t backed up by decent wages.

Having an impressive title can feel great; maybe you aren’t making quite what you’d like, but when you move on to your next job, that title should help you land your desired income. That line of thinking is flawed, warns The Huffington Post’s “3 Tricks Companies Commonly Use to Scam Employees.” Many of us have been conditioned to believe that our job titles have value, but not necessarily to make sure that the job title matched the salary. Sometimes, these titles are also deceptively generic — they may sound impressive and include a word like “senior” or “chief,” but they actually make it extremely difficult for an employee to gauge how their salary compares to others with similar job titles in their field.

If you do discover you’ve been taken advantage of by an employer, it can be tough to know what to do next. If it’s something small, such as being paid for bits of time outside your shift or being expected to answer texts any time, test the waters and try to set some boundaries with your boss. However, no matter what, consider looking for a new place of work — you deserve to be compensated fairly, and you can and will find an employer who will treat you fairly.


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