When Employers Steal Wages From Workers
Some of the lowest wage workers are getting their livelihoods stolen by their own employers.
Employers deny workers overtime premiums, ask them to work “off the clock” or take their tips.
In California, workers lost nearly $2 billion from not being paid the minimum wage in 2015, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.
Most often the victims of wage theft are women, immigrants and people of color, researchers say; many work in restaurants, construction, hotels, car washes, garment businesses, farms, warehouses, and nail salons. These workers are among those who bore the brunt of job losses during the pandemic and have the most ground to make up.
For years, California’s lawmakers have tried solving the wage theft problem by strengthening labor laws. Most workers who file wage theft claims wait months or years before getting a resolution; only a fraction who prevail get repaid lost wages.
Usually no one goes to jail for the theft.
Last year California made most wage theft a criminal offense. It also did away with the garment industry’s system of paying workers by the piece instead of by the hour. Now lawmakers are considering creating a statewide council to set wage and work conditions for the fast food industry.
Here’s what you need to know about wage theft in California.