Wage theft is the term used to describe the common workplace
practice of not paying workers all the wages they earn. The U.S. Department of
Labor (DOL) has found these violations in more than half of the businesses they
have investigated in entire industries such as construction, garment assembly,
poultry processing, and retail. Among workers in low-wage industries in New
York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, during a single week, over two-thirds were
victims of wage theft. Nationwide, millions of workers each week, particularly
those in low-wage jobs, suffer the theft of their wages by unscrupulous
- violations of minimum wage laws;
- non-payment of time-and-a-half overtime pay;
- workers being forced to work off the clock;
- workers not receiving their final paychecks
when they end a job;
- workers having their tips stolen by
- workers mis-classifed as independent contractors
instead of employees to enable employers to avoid paying minimum wages,
overtime, and the employer share of payroll taxes, workers compensation
insurance, and benefits; and
- in some egregious cases, workers are not paid
at all, even after putting in hundreds or even thousands of hours of work.
What Can Be Done
law enforcement by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and state Departments of
Labor is needed to increase enforcement.
legislation is needed to strengthen protection of workers and enhance
and local legislation is needed to prohibit wage theft and strengthen
protections against payroll fraud.
legislation is needed to strengthen the universally-recognized right of workers
to form or join a union; unions in the workplace are one of the best deterrents
against wage theft.
community worker centers (over 200 have formed in the past decade) to help
workers build their own power to recover wages and organize improvements in the
Involved to Stop Wage Theft
yourself and your congregation using the resources below and others.
2. Volunteer with a worker
center or religion-labor organization near you.
national, state, and local legislation to strengthen enforcement and penalties
for wage theft.
to end wage theft in your community. See Winning Wage Justice: An Advocate’s Guide to State and City Policies to Fight Wage Theft [1.11 MB]
from the National Employment Law Project
Interfaith Worker Justice webpage on wage
- Resources on wage theft for congregations from
Interfaith Worker Justice
- A Primer on Wage Theft from Interfaith Worker Justice
- Stopping wage theft, an interview with Kim Bobo, author of Wage Theft
in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid And What We
Can Do About It and executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice.
Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America's
Cities [1.1MB] by Annette Bernhardt, et al., Center for Urban Economic Development, National Employment Law Project, and UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Researches interviewed a
representative sample of over 4,300 workers in low-wage industries in Chicago,
Los Angeles, and New York City. More than two-thirds (68%) experienced at least
one pay-related violation during the previous work week: 26% of workers were
paid less than the legally required minimum wage; of the one-quarter of all the
workers who worked overtime, 76% were not paid the legally-required overtime pay
- Winning Wage Justice: An Advocate’s Guide to State and City Policies to Fight Wage Theft [1.11 MB] from the National Employment
- Read and discuss Wage
Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid And
What We Can Do About It by Kim Bobo. Order the book and download a congregational study guide.