The Economic Policy Institute recently reported that wage theft has reached epidemic levels in the United States with millions of American workers losing their wages to this illegal practice every year.
According to a report in Wallstcheatsheet.com, wage theft has become rampant in several industries such as construction, garment manufacturing, warehousing and even healthcare.
The study found that workers in certain professions such as childcare and cashiers are subject to particularly high rates of both overtime and minimum wage violations.
The Problem of Wage Theft
Wage theft is a term that refers to the illegal withholding of wages or denial of benefits to which an employee is entitled. The most common types of wage theft include failure to pay overtime, not giving workers their last paychecks after they quit or are terminated, not paying for all the hours worked, not paying minimum wage and simply not paying the worker his or her salary.
Labor law experts say victims of wage theft typically tend to be low-wage, low-skilled workers who are desperate to hang on to their jobs. Often, they tend to be immigrants, a vulnerable section of the population that is least likely to speak up.
According to the Institute’s survey, wage theft costs workers billions a year.
A study the Institute reviewed found that of low-wage workers in three large cities (Los Angeles, New York and Chicago), two-thirds experienced at least one pay-related violation in any given week.
In total, the annual wage theft from low-wage workers in these three major cities approaches $3 billion.
However, the amount of money recovered for victims of wage theft from employers totaled more than $933 million – an amount that is three times greater than all the money stolen in robberies in 2013.
Fighting for Your Rights
This is a deeply disturbing trend. First and foremost, wage theft affects the most vulnerable segment of our society – those who may be below the poverty line, who need their jobs just to make ends meet and who would not protest for fear of losing their jobs.
Also, as many advocates rightly point out workers who steal from their employers will likely be led out in handcuffs, but when an employer steals their wages, workers would be lucky if they got a portion of their money back. This egregious and disheartening!
No worker deserves to have his or her rights violated. If you believe your employer has not paid your wages properly, it is important that you contact an experienced California employment lawyer to examine your legal rights and options.
A knowledgeable employment attorney can help you fight for your rights and help you secure the compensation you rightfully deserve.