Wage Theft Threatens Low-Income Workers

Wage and hour laws are necessary to ensure that workers are being fairly compensated and that employers are held accountable. A recent study has revealed that many employers are flouting minimum wage laws and failing to pay overtime, costing low-wage workers a significant portion of their paychecks.

The study was conducted and released by the Economic Policy Institute and highlights the epidemic of wage theft throughout the nation. According to the report, more than 60 percent of low-wage workers have suffered illegal wage theft by their employer. Many of these workers are those most in need, including low-wage workers who, on average, lose $2,634 in unpaid wages.

But, how is wage theft going undetected? How are companies and large corporations able to make off with nearly 15% of America’s lowest wage earners’ income? One problem is that there is a lack of regulation. In 2008, the federal government only employed a single inspector for every 141,000 workers. This means that the average employer had only a .001 percent chance of investigation.

Unfortunately, many wage and hour violations go unnoticed or unreported by employees. An employee may trust that their employer is acting legally or fail to understand the withholdings from their paychecks. The Labor Department has reported that wage theft amounted to $185 million on 2008, nearly three times the amount of money lost from convenient store or bank robberies the same year. Identifying wage theft will often require the assistance of an experienced employment lawyer. An advocate can review income and documentation, identify legal violations and rightfully pursue recovery in accordance with the law.

Employee rights advocates are pursuing laws and policies that would force violating employees to pay lawyer fees and give states the right to inspect employers. As with many policy debates, deep-pocketed corporations have unleashed lobbies to prevent such regulatory enforcement measures.

For now, being aware of wage theft can help you protect your income and your rights. If you are a Minnesota employee and believe you have suffered from illegal withholding or other wage violation, our attorneys want to hear from you. Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees and consumers throughout Minnesota. Please contact our law firm if you are facing an employment dispute or have a question about wage laws or withholding practices.