What is wage theft?
Wage theft is the illegal underpayment or non-payment of workers' wages. It affects millions of workers each year, often forcing them to choose between paying the rent or putting food on the table. Wage theft occurs most frequently in construction, restaurant, landscaping, painting, and janitorial work, and happens in both small and large companies.
Wage Theft Includes:
- Violations of minimum wage laws
- Not paying overtime pay
- Workers not receiving their final paychecks
- Not paying workers at all
- Forcing workers to work off the clock
- Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime (as well as employers' share of FICA tax)
(Source: Interfaith Worker Justice)
How common is wage theft?
Wage theft of low-wage immigrant workers is widespread and largely unreported. Latina immigrant workers paid in cash are most vulnerable; however, it touches every race, gender and ethnicity. Women are significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations, and foreign-born Latino workers have the highest minimum wage violation rates of any racial/ethnic group.
Many workers fear retaliation if they fight employers who cheat them of their wages. Employers may fire or suspend workers, threaten to call immigration authorities, or threaten to cut workers’ hours or pay if they complain.
What is the Stop Wage Theft Campaign?
Last year, Casa Latina initiated the Washington State Coalition to Stop Wage Theft, which is working to raise public awareness and reduce wage theft in Washington State. This group is forming a strategy to hold companies accountable for the business practices of their subcontractors that could become a national model for reversing the tide of wage theft. This Coalition, led by Casa Latina, worked for the historic passage of the Seattle Wage Theft Law, City Ordinance 123596, which makes wage theft a criminal offense and gives the city power to revoke business licenses for individuals who have been convicted of wage theft.
The Stop Wage Theft campaign aims to:
- Strengthen Washington State wage and hour law through work in coalition with organized labor, legislators and the private bar;
- Increase the capacity of those mechanisms already in place to enforce wage and hour law;
- Grow the capacity of low-wage workers and their allies to organize against workers’ rights abuses in their communities locally, and to join in statewide and regional campaigns to combat wage theft abuse, institutionally.