Wage Theft: Work at Your Own Risk
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – April 07, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – People all over the U.S. are taking action to stop wage theft, a national shame that’s robbing millions of low-income workers out of the salaries and benefits they’ve worked for but never seen.
And the damages are estimated in the billions.
Wage theft is the illegal withholding of wages or the denial of benefits that are rightfully owed to an employee. Wage theft, particularly from less than minimum wage legal or illegal immigrant workers, is all too common in the United States.
Just recently, members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined with community and business leaders and those workers who have experienced wage theft personally. They are rallying for new updated laws and other initiatives to prevent this problem, but finding it an up-hill battle.
The harsh truth is the majority of the victims won’t report wage theft for fear of losing their jobs. And these workers know they may face reprisal from their employers if they say anything at all.
Statistics show wage earners across the country who have had portions of their wages, benefits and even vacation time taken from them by unscrupulous practices have been growing exponentially. And the number of those who did file complaints went from around 4,500 in 2007 to about 8,600 in 2014. That’s about five times the amount reported 20 years ago.
The victims of wage theft are mostly labors at the bottom of the pay scale with no means to retaliate or sue. And lawyers, in many cases, are not able take on these lawsuits because it takes too much time to process and there’s little or no money to be made.
Wage theft can be carried out through various means such as: not paying overtime, slashing the minimum wage, illegal deductions in pay, working off the clock, or not being paid at all.
And even though the 1938 “Fair Labor Standards Act” has guaranteed certain rights to workers in the U.S., no one really enforces this law.
In fact, some states have quietly taken funding away from those agencies working with wage theft. And without local and state support, the sad fact is low wage workers have nowhere to turn.