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Combating Wage Theft

About the Campaign

Every day, hardworking people are robbed of the compensation they’ve earned by their labor. Employers steal wages when they fail to pay overtime, pay less than the minimum wage, illegally deduct work-related costs from paychecks, instruct employees to work off-the-clock – and in some cases, fail to pay workers at all. In order to conceal their wage theft and discourage workers from speaking up, employers often intimidate, retaliate against, or harass workers; falsify wage records; and misclassify employees as freelancers or independent contractors to avoid the protections...

Every day, hardworking people are robbed of the compensation they’ve earned by their labor. Employers steal wages when they fail to pay overtime, pay less than the minimum wage, illegally deduct work-related costs from paychecks, instruct employees to work off-the-clock – and in some cases, fail to pay workers at all. In order to conceal their wage theft and discourage workers from speaking up, employers often intimidate, retaliate against, or harass workers; falsify wage records; and misclassify employees as freelancers or independent contractors to avoid the protections of employment law. 

While wage theft impacts workers of all income levels, low-wage workers—often people of color and immigrants—are disproportionately affected. For people already earning low wages, cuts to a paycheck can mean they can no longer put food on the table, afford the rent, and pay the bills—forcing families to make difficult tradeoffs among their basic needs.

Wage theft also hurts local communities. Law-abiding employers cannot afford to compete with wage thieves who drive down labor standards and save costs by breaking the law. And wage theft significantly decreases the spending power of working families, which deals a further blow to the economic vitality of state and local economies.

To ensure that workers earn the wages they’ve worked hard for, CPD and our partners are advocating for common-sense policies including:

  • Real consequences for employers that violate the law, including stiff penalties, criminal sanctions, and ineligibility for government contracts
  • Strong anti-retaliation provisions to protect workers who come forward about mistreatment
  • Preserving workers’ access to courts to recoup unpaid wages
  • Protections for undocumented workers, whose vulnerability makes them an easy target for unscrupulous employers
  • Adequate resources for government enforcement of wage and hour laws
  • Ensuring that workers can actually collect from their employers who have stolen their wages
  • Holding big corporations accountable when they allow their subcontractors to commit wage theft

facts & figures

  • In low-wage industries in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, two-thirds of workers experienced at least one pay-related violation in any given week. The average loss per worker over the course of a year was $2,634, out of total earnings of $17,616. Read more here.
  • Wage theft costs low-wage US workers more than $50 billion a year. Read more here
  • In low-wage industries in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, two-thirds of workers experienced at least one pay-related violation in any given week. The average loss per worker over the course of a year was $2,634, out of total earnings of $17,616. Read more here.
  • Wage theft costs low-wage US workers more than $50 billion a year. Read more here