Wage theft as a social issue does not get the attention that it deserves. Many people are dismissive of wage theft. They assume that when employers manipulate time clock records or otherwise seek to diminish what they pay individual employees, affected workers only suffer mild financial setbacks.
However, nationwide statistics about wage theft paint a very different picture. Small amounts of theft add up over time to deprive individual workers of thousands of dollars in income every year. Additionally, if a company steals wages from one worker, it probably also does the same thing to others. Research shows that wage theft in the United States likely adds up to more than $50 billion in unpaid wages to workers each year.
How does wide-scale wage theft go unnoticed?
Employers are often very savvy when seeking to minimize what they pay their workers. They train staff members to do certain job responsibilities off the clock so that they never even question whether they deserve compensation for what may add up to 20 or 30 minutes of their time every day. Other times, people in managerial, accounting or human resources roles might actually go into time clock records and make small adjustments. Workers may not notice when an employer simply deletes five or 10 minutes of work for each shift. However, that adds up to an hour or more of unpaid wages per check.
When extrapolated against years of employment and dozens of workers, a single company’s misconduct can have major financial implications for hourly workers and those receiving low salaries. Even a refusal to pay overtime wages to workers who are non-exempt could be a form of wage theft. If someone has put in more than 40 hours, then they deserve overtime pay for the time beyond the basic 40-hour work week.
How can workers fight back?
Combating wage theft can be a challenging process. Employees often start by gathering their own documentation that shows a company has not paid in full what it should have. From there, they may need to start communicating with coworkers to compare their experience with the experience of others at the same company.
Oftentimes, wage claims don’t result in a company voluntarily paying what it owes, so workers may need to take the matter to court. Working together and seeking legal guidance can make a big difference for workers who believe that their employers have denied them appropriate wages for the time they have worked.