Quote of the Day, June 6, 2012
Our research shows that states’ wage theft laws are grossly inadequate, contributing to a rising trend in workplace violations that affects millions of people throughout the country. The growth of this and other forms of the “underground economy” also have a serious impact on state revenues, amounting to billions of dollars per year in tax and payroll fraud.–excerpted from Progressive States Network’s June 2012 Report, Where Wage Theft Is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States
Wage theft happens when employees cheat workers out of their wages. There are many ways employers intentionally do this. Sometimes workers are pressured to work uncompensated overtime and to pay for safety equipment which should be provided by the employer. Some employers keep workers’ tips and some simply pay less than the worker has earned. Sometimes workers are paid less than the minimum wage and sometimes workers are not paid at all. In her recent piece “Preying on the Poor,” Economic Hardship Reporting Project’s Barbara Ehrenreich cites an estimated $100 billion are stolen from low-wage workers in the U.S. each year.
Wage theft laws are intended to protect workers from wage theft. The new report from the Progressive States Network, Where Wage Theft Is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States, looks at the inadequacy of these preventative laws state by state. They find that wage theft laws throughout the country fail workers. Another report, Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers, details similar findings in the three largest U.S. cities-Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. These researchers find that workplace violations are widespread with 26% of low-wage workers receiving less than minimum wage at the time of the survey and 76% of those who working overtime hours were not paid the legal required overtime wage.
Some additional sources for information about the pervasive and virtually hidden epidemic of wage theft can be found in Susan Miloser’s report for Washington & Lee School of Law: Picking Pockets for Profit, Interfaith Worker Justice, and The National Employment Law Project’s “Winning Wage Justice: A Summary of Wage and Hour Violations in the United States.”