Your Boss May Be Stealing From You

On wage theft and what to do about it

Horrible Bosses

Last year, the Department of Labor did its annual investigation into the treatment (read: systematic abuse) of low-wage workers. The results are easy to believe but hard to stomach. Over 17,000 health care workers, for example, were owed over $14,000,000 in back pay for FY 2015, meaning that, over just one year, the average health care worker had been cheated out of $823. Not every low-wage occupation fared that badly: over 5,000 temps were owed almost $2,500,000, or “only” about $500 each. But some seem to be particularly vulnerable. Restaurant workers, whose employers stole over $800 from each on average, had the greatest absolute total of violations: almost 47,000 employees were affected.

It’s worth emphasizing that those are only the violations the Department of Labor knows about. There are fewer than 1,000 federal investigators whose job it is to pay attention, which means that a lot of this malfeasance is going undetected — and unpunished.

On average, according to the Washington Post, which crunched the numbers, the amount stolen from each affected worker in 2015 alone was about $1,000. In a country where the minimum wage in most places is well under $10 an hour, and most of us would struggle to handle a $400 emergency, that’s what my people would call a shandeh, a scandal and a shame.

And it was happening in the Capitol itself.

Even in the hallowed halls of the Senate, hundreds of low-wage workers had been shortchanged. For six years.
This case involves Senate cafeteria workers, some of whom were so poorly paid that they were homeless, on public assistance or, in one case, moonlighting as a stripper to make ends meet. …
Restaurant Associates had been shortchanging workers not only since the new contract was signed in December. According to investigators, it had been improperly classifying employees, not paying them for all the time they worked, and failing to pay required health and welfare benefits since at least 2010.

Wage theft matters because, with income stagnating and the costs of living soaring, especially in cities like DC, every penny counts. That bosses would steal pennies from their most vulnerable employees — and will!, and do! — is straight up despicable.

Know your rights, y’all.

And more here.