Illegal Wage Theft Traps Workers in Silence
Posted on behalf of Arnold Law Firm on Dec 13, 2016 in Employment Law
Wage theft is a serious problem in California and growing at an alarming rate.
Wage theft occurs when an employer denies wages or benefits rightfully owed to an employee. There is no typical offending employer. Companies engaging in wage theft range from small employers to large corporations with thousands of employees, throughout all industries.
Victims are often the most vulnerable members of society who need their wages the most to meet basic human needs. Employment law infractions are usually not isolated; they tend to occur throughout an organization.
According to a Los Angeles County study, low-wage workers represented almost one-fifth of the county’s total workforce. Of these 744,220 low-wage workers, 30 percent, or nearly 250,000 workers, were illegally being paid less than minimum wage.
Another study found that 80 percent of low-wage workers who qualify for rest or meal breaks are not allowed their full break time or are not given breaks at all. These violations cost the wage-theft victim—who is already at the lowest end of the wage scale—an average of over $2,000 per year, or 12 percent of their $16,536 annual income.
Wage theft can occur through various means, such as:
- Failure to pay overtime
- Failure to pay the required minimum wage
- Employee misclassification as being salaried or an independent contractor
- Illegal deductions in pay
- Charging employees for required job-related items
- Working off the clock
- Not being paid at all for hours worked
How do employers get away with this?
The Los Angeles County study showed that 50 percent of wage-theft victims did not file a complaint out of fear of retaliation or a feeling that their complaints would not bring about change. Only 15 percent of victims actually filed a complaint against their employer, and half of those who did complain experienced retaliation by their employers.
Low-wage workers are compensated well below the poverty line. Saving money is usually impractical, with all earnings directed towards basic human needs, such as housing, food, diapers, and baby formula.
Simply put, wages equal survival. Employers exploit this lack of financial stability and fear of job loss to keep employees silent. This silence has allowed wage theft to become an epidemic in California, despite strong laws to protect workers. Through legal action, unethical employers can be held accountable and forced to repay wages owed and stop their illegal wage practices.
If you have experienced wage theft personally or are aware of a possible wage-theft situation, contact the Arnold Law Firm to discuss how you can be a part of the fight against illegal employment practices throughout California. You probably have many questions and concerns about wrongful conduct by an employer. Our attorneys are experienced with wage theft cases and will fight tirelessly for those affected by it.