Wage theft is a serious crime. In effect it’s no different from any other form of theft or robbery, minus the violence that sometimes comes with these crimes. In fact, because wage theft is heard of so little in comparison to other crimes, it’s believed to be becoming an epidemic within the United States.
How Big a Problem are Lost Wages?
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that stolen wages are costing our national workforce up to $50 billion a year! This is significantly more than the $14 billion lost to traditional types of robberies and thefts combined. Let that sink in for a moment – combining all robberies, thefts, auto thefts and burglaries gives a figure which is less than 1/3rd of what lost wages cost the population! Is it any surprise this being called an epidemic?
How Does Wage Theft Happen?
There are many ways wage theft can occur. The number one tactic used in employer theft of wages is to get you doing unpaid work. So many workers don’t even realise how much cash this costs them!
For example, the law requires you to have a break after a certain amount of hours, depending on which state you’re in. Often times this will be an unpaid break, as you are supposed to be on break from working during it. However, to get your workload completed and keep the employer happy, you might end up working through this break. That could be a half hour of unpaid work each day.
Perhaps to keep on top of your workload this still isn’t enough. Maybe you need to stay behind or start a little early each day, adding another half hour total on top of your day. This is now an hour per day of extra, unpaid work! Add to this any special requests for help from your employer, and you could end up doing an entire day of extra work each week, without any pay for it! Not to mention how many employers expect you to clock in and get ready for the day before your shift starts, or to clean up only AFTER your shift has finished.
Would you be okay with somebody stealing a days wages from you if it was taken as a cash amount after you’d earned it? Of course not! As the United Steel Workers have already said – this magnitude of crime deserves jail time!
What Can You do About it?
The simple answer is to find a good, experienced lawyer in this field. There are many specialists out there who know what approach to use to get the best results in your industry, or even with your specific employer.
In an age where many employers opt to simply change their business name/location or other details to avoid payment, an experienced lawyer is key. These people know how to best enforce a claim and make sure that you get paid. Using inexperienced lawyers has seen many people win cases yet still fail to claim any actual compensation or payment from their employer because of tricks like leaving the city.
Don’t risk this happening to you, go for a reputable attorney from the start and you can rest easy knowing you will receive what you’re owed.
Image: Artem Bali