In cities and towns across the United States, millions of Americans are barely getting by. For those individuals who earn minimum wage, every dollar must be budgeted and spent to afford basic necessities like housing, food, clothing and transportation. In cases where an individual is supporting a family, it requires a lot of ingenuity to stretch every dollar to make it until the next paycheck.
Sadly, for the millions of men and women who work 40-hour jobs and earn less than $20,000 annually, their paychecks are often shorted and don’t account for all of the minutes and hours they worked. In fact, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, “wage theft is costing workers more than $50 billion a year.”
Workers in the U.S. are protected against acts of wage theft under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The provisions of the FLSA lay out standards and rules for how workers are compensated. For example, the FLSA provides clear directives about compensation and pay related to minimum wage, overtime and hours worked. Additionally, FLSA requires that employers inform employees about these requirements and keep accurate records of the number of hours employees work.
Too often, acts of wage theft are committed against those workers who can least afford to come forward and report such acts for fear of losing a job and much-needed income. This includes workers who earn minimum wage as well as undocumented immigrants. While the FLSA lay the basic groundwork for stopping wage theft, much more can and should be done.
U.S. workers who have been the victims of wage theft are advised to come forward and report such abuses of power. There is strength in numbers and workers who unite and take legal action against employers that engage in this unfair and illegal practice can triumph and be awarded back wages and additional compensation as well as bring about important changes within certain industries and workplaces.
Source: Economic Policy Institute, “An Epidemic of Wage Theft Is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year,” Brady Meixell and Ross Eisenbrey, Sept. 11, 2014