Did you know that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established federal minimum wage and overtime pay and banned child labor, excluded housekeepers, laborers, nannies, tipped employees and day laborers?
This law encouraged employers to steal real wages from their employees. Unfortunately, wage theft still occurs today. Therefore this is what you should know about wage theft’s impact on employees.
What is wage theft?
Wage theft occurs when your employer denies you overtime pay, pays less than minimum wage, steals your tips or classifies you as an independent contractor when you should be an employee with all the benefits. You may also experience time shaving or an employer requiring you to work off the clock. Your employer may pressure you not to file a workers’ compensation claim or threaten to fire you if you do not work through lunch or take sick or vacation leave.
Who receives the greatest impact?
Are you one of the Americans who experienced overtime, minimum wage or meal break violations, which occurred in 19%, 25% and 58% of the workforce, respectively? Low-income individuals are disproportionately impacted.
Women, immigrants and people of color experience higher levels of wage theft. For example, although they only comprise 10% of the workforce, 16% of wage theft impacts Black Americans. This led to 196,000 Black workers experiencing wage theft of up to $22 million in 2020. This is disproportionate to other racial groups.
What you can do
Your best defense is knowledge. Learn your rights as a worker. If you suspect theft, speak with your employer. You can also file a claim or complaint with your local labor board, department of labor or labor commissioner’s office and your state.
Wage theft is a crime, and you have both civil and criminal protections against it.