Workers in New York whose wages are at or just above minimum wage struggle every day to earn a living for themselves and their families. Things only get tougher when their employer commits wage theft against them.
Unfortunately, this insidious practice is widespread among some of the United States’ largest corporations, who tend to target their lowest-paid employees, according to a new study discussed by ABC News.
How companies steal millions of dollars in wages every year
A review of nearly 15 years of data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor revealed millions of dollars of wage theft each year. In 2019 alone, the agency cited around 8,500 employers for illegally taking about $287 million worth of wages from their employees.
The most common pay violations include failing to pay overtime wages; requiring employees to work off the clock; or paying below the minimum wage. These workers commonly have jobs that pay at or slightly above the minimum wage. Having even, say, $100 of their wages stolen can greatly affect these workers’ ability to pay their rent or feed their children.
What happens when employers get caught?
One reason wage theft persists in the United States is the lack of consequences for repeat offenders. The Department of Labor  only fined about 25 percent of employers for repeat wage theft offenses during the time period covered in the study. In many cases, the arm of the agency that investigates wage theft claims does not even require offending employers to pay workers all of the wages they are owed. According to the study, workers lost about $20.5 million in wages from employers who were cited for wage theft.
What wage theft victims can do about it
In other words, when it comes to government enforcement, it can be more profitable for employers to steal from their workers and risk getting caught than to follow the law. New Yorkers who are victims of pay violations should work with an employment law attorney in order to ensure their rights are protected.