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Employers of some of America’s lowest paid workers are stealing billions of dollars from their paychecks, and federal and state agencies have only been able to recover a fraction of those lost wages.
It’s a big problem in low-wage industries like residential construction and warehousing, but the most visible offenders are retail and restaurant chains, which have high turnover and often employ undocumented workers who are more vulnerable to intimidation from an employer if they complain.
California recovered nearly $117 million for workers between 2015 and 2016, more than a third of the total amount recovered by the 39 states from which EPI received figures. It was followed by New York, which recovered $84.6 million.
California, for example, requires employers to present each worker with a notice of their rights, including the rate of pay and who they can call if this is not reflected in their paychecks. The state is also home to a host of union-aligned nonprofits with the ability to educate workers about the law and how to file complaints.
Former Mayor Rodolfo Hernandez is running for the Presidency in
On July 11, 2016, the Earned Sick Days Off and Minimum Wage Ordinance became law and established a local minimum wage for all work done within the city. As of January 2017 that minimum wage was $11.50 per hour, one dollar higher than the California minimum. In addition, the law requires the city to implement a compliance system.
As of June 30, 2017, the city lacked even a form for such complaints. At that time, without announcing it, it added two check boxes to an online form and changed the instructions on the website to say that workers have the option of filing a complaint with the city or the Labor Commissioner.
Julie A. Su, who became Labor Commissioner in 2011, urged Faulconer, San Diego’s mayor, and city councilmembers in a May 2017 letter to join her office in collaborating so they could more effectively combat wage theft as Los Angeles and San Francisco have done.
Fenalco Nacional released the results of the 18th edition of the national shrinkage census, showing that ant thefts in commerce reached $589,747 million in 2019, which meant an increase of 7.8% compared to 2018 when $546,719 million were recorded.
This type of theft represented a loss of $69,237 million, of which 75% was due to individual thefts, which totaled $43,520 million; while the remaining was due to organized thefts and totaled $25,716 million.
External thefts, which are those carried out by customers, saw an increase of 1%, going from 142,312 cases detected in 2018 to 143,207 in 2019. These cases reached $96,026 million, of which 37% came from individual thefts totaling $35,666 million; and 63% was from organized thefts amounting to $60,359 million.
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Wage theft is the denial of an employee’s salary or wage supplements by the employer. It is closely related to the broader concept of labor exploitation: all wage theft is labor exploitation, but not all labor exploitation involves wage theft.
Wage theft compared to other property crimes (theft from persons, auto theft, burglary, residential burglary, and larceny) in the United States in terms of total annual loss (billions of dollars).[9
Assigning employees to incorrect occupational categories is a regulatory violation that renders them highly vulnerable to other forms of wage theft. Under the FLSA, independent contractors (self-employed) do not receive the same protection as an employee for certain fringe benefits. The difference between the two classifications depends on the permanence of the occupation, opportunity for profit and loss, and the worker’s level of self-employment along with his or her degree of control. An independent contractor is not entitled to minimum wage, overtime, insurance, protection, or other employee rights. Attempts are sometimes made to camouflage regular employees as independent contractors.[10