Do US workers lose billions of dollars each year to wage theft?

Saturday, January 9, 2021
By Mia Dillon

Wage theft is almost never reported by its victims—the workers who are deprived of legally-entitled wages. It is therefore difficult to measure. A widely-cited 2014 estimate by the Economic Policy Institute, which advocates for the needs of lower-income workers, put the figure at as high as $50 billion a year.

In 2017, the institute estimated that 2.4 million workers in the 10 most populous states lost $8 billion annually to just one form of wage theft, employer violations of minimum-wage laws. Other common forms of wage theft include non-payment of overtime, not paying a worker for all of the hours they've worked, not giving workers their last paycheck and refusing to pay workers altogether.

A 2014 report prepared for the Labor Department documented as much as $20.1 million of wage theft per week in New York and as much as $28.7 million of wage theft per week in California.

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