When you go to work, whether you clock in with a time card or manage your hours another way, you trust that you will be getting paid for that time.  An hour worked equals an hour’s pay, and that is definitely the way it should be done.

However, not all employers are as trustworthy as we assume that they are, and wage theft is sadly becoming a common fact of life in many businesses.  Wage theft can be minor, in which case many people simply write it off as a bad experience and move on to another job, or it can have severe implications on a person’s life.

What is Wage Theft?

Wage theft is simple – it is what occurs when someone works but does not get paid for the time that they put in.  It is not the same as a company occasionally forgetting to add your overtime and then adding it to your paycheck when you point it out.  Employer wage theft is the ongoing neglect of paying an employee for the time they worked, and is often seen in lack of pay for overtime hours, adding in breaks that did not occur, making illegal deductions, or moving hours to an upcoming week to avoid paying overtime.

How Can Wage Theft Severely Impact Your Life?

According to the Economic Policy Institute, employers annually steal billions of dollars from their workers’ paychecks every year.  This often hurts those who are already in the low income bracket and who can least afford to lose extra income, but it can  have major impacts on others as well.

Minimum wage violations affect low-income workers, causing them to rely on public assistance.  

Minimum wage violations are when employees are paid less than minimum wage.  Those who accept that pay are often already migrant workers or those who have difficulty finding work and are desperate for whatever money they can get paid.

The steady income itself is not enough to survive and take care of a family, so these people must then rely on public assistance, which sets off a chain reaction that affects millions of people.  Public assistance costs taxpayers money, often impacting state and local economies to the point that other people may lose their jobs entirely.

Allowing discrimination in wages creates a ripple effect throughout the country.  

Most commonly, young people, immigrants and minorities are victims of wage theft.  But once employers see that they can get away with paying less than the minimum wage or banking a  few extra dollars here and there by throwing in breaks that did not happen or forgetting to pay overtime, it becomes a large problem for everyone.

Businesses that engage in the illegal practice of wage theft are undercutting other honest businesses. 

The money that a business saves by cheating its employees of their rightful wages can be used to reduce their prices, bringing in more business from unsuspecting customers.  However, this ends up hurting those businesses who have to charge a little more to be able to pay their employees what they deserve.

Wage Theft is a Crime, Report It

If you or someone you know is a victim of wage theft, contact your state’s Department of Labor or the federal government’s Wage and Hour Division.  If you are the victim of wage theft, you should contact a wage and hour attorney to get your rightful compensation.

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