Discussions about theft in the workplace focus on the wrong perpetrators. Companies often have pages of policy aimed at curtailing worker theft. However, the millions of dollars in employee-related product shrink and other forms of worker theft pale in comparison to what companies steal from their workers.
You might think that wage theft isn’t an issue for modern Americans, but you would be wrong. Although few people talk about it, wage theft is common and has a massive impact on the United States economy every year.
It isn’t just small companies or businesses going under that don’t pay their workers. Long-established companies with excellent reputations often engage in wage theft with few, if any, consequences if workers don’t take action. How big of an issue is wage theft in the United States?
Employers steal billions of dollars from millions of workers
According to data that looks at unpaid wages and overtime owed to workers, companies steal roughly $8 billion in wages from their workers in a year. That figure comes from 2017 data, so the amount could easily have grown since then. Experts in this under-recognized area of study estimate that about 2.4 million people each year become the victim of employer wage theft.
You may not even recognize that you are the victim of wage theft, as companies are often clever in how they siphon off money that they should pay to their staff. For example, your employer might demand that you clock out before doing some of your final job tasks every day. They might have a policy that requires management approval for overtime wages while still expecting you to put in those extra hours.
Some companies are even sneakier. They might delete a few minutes of work time off of each shift, making it hard to track the discrepancies. Even a few minutes of unpaid time from every shift can add up to thousands of dollars that a worker should receive but doesn’t get in their paycheck.
How do you determine if you experienced wage theft?
You may already know if your employer unfairly denies you overtime compensation or makes you do unpaid work frequently. It may be harder to spot changes to your pay stub and time clock records unless you maintain your own record diligently.
Talking to other employees can also help you explore whether they have noticed differences between what they should make and what they get paid. Bringing a wage claim against your employer can help you connect with those stolen wages. When you understand how common wage theft is, you can take better precautions to protect yourself from it.