When prosecutors and politicians talk about taking a tough stance on crime, they are usually not talking about wage theft. But millions of U.S. workers across lose up to $16 billion in income each year, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
The EPI study focused on the 10 most populous states, including Florida, and discovered an estimated 2.4 million workers lost $8 billion in 2017. The research found that minimum-wage workers are some of the hardest hit, being underpaid by an average of $64 per week.
How do employers steal wages?
Wage theft is the failure by an employer to compensate workers for the full wages they are entitled to receive under the law. Companies use many methods, including:
- Paying workers less than the minimum wage
- Not paying nonexempt employees overtime for hours worked beyond 40 per week
- Asking employees to work off-the-clock before or after their regular shifts
- Denying legally mandated meal breaks
- Taking illegal deductions from paychecks and not distributing pay stubs
- Confiscating tips from workers
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors
Wage theft affects nearly every industry
People who work in construction, nursing homes, restaurants, on farms and in many other industries are affected.
A 2018 report by Good Jobs First found several Fortune 500 companies are some of the biggest offenders, such as Walmart, FedEx, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and State Farm Insurance.
The U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for enforcement of wage-theft laws, and the results have been less than stellar. In 2018 the department helped return a record $308 million to workers, but that is a fraction of the billions stolen each year.
Hold employers accountable for stolen pay
The Fair Labor Standards Act and Florida laws protect workers from unscrupulous employers who steal wages. Many workers are hesitant to file a claim, fearing the employer will retaliate. However, an experienced employment law attorney will protect your interests and work diligently to see that you receive the compensation you have earned.