Survey Finds Majority of Fast Food Workers Are Victims of Wage Theft

employment law

A new survey shows that wage theft is a massive problem in the service industry, with fast-food workers in California being shortchanged by their employers.

The survey, titled Fight for $15, was funded by the Service Employees International Union (SIEU). Its shocking results show that major corporations leave minimum-wage employees short while pocketing billions of dollars in profits.

A KQED news article states that 85% of more than 400 survey respondents in dozens of California cities said they experienced at least one form of labor law violation. These included insufficient overtime pay or not getting paid for hours they worked off the clock. The survey said nearly 60% were victims of multiple types of wage theft.

Wage Theft While Large Corporations Make Big Profits

The report’s authors say the wage theft problem is due to the franchise model in the fast-food relationship. It gives franchisees the incentive to cut corners on payroll, one of the few business expenses under their control. The large corporations, which control most aspects of franchise operations, are protected by those contracts from responsibility for wage theft or other labor law violations.

The SEIU is co-sponsoring a bill in California’s Legislature, which would make this the first state to hold corporations liable for labor law violations impacting about 550,000 fast-food workers. Most of these employees are people of color, particularly immigrants, making close to minimum wage.

In California, the current minimum wage is $14 an hour for workers in companies with 25 employees or less and $15 an hour for larger businesses. Many fast-food giants raked in profits during the pandemic, according to the survey. McDonald’s, for example, brought in $10 billion in profits in 2021 alone. However, that did not change the situation for minimum-wage workers or prevent them from being hit by wage theft.

Protecting Your Rights

California provides strong protections for workers. If you believe your employer is not paying due wages, it is important that you speak with an experienced California employment lawyer. You need an attorney who specifically handles wage theft cases and helps workers band together, holding employers liable by filing employment class-action lawsuits. California’s labor laws provide certain rights to all workers regardless of their immigration status. Call an employment lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.



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