Protecting Workers’ Rights: The Fight Against Wage Theft

A bill that aims to stop wage theft is rapidly moving through government, with supporters hopeful it could be implemented this year. Let’s take a look.

Addressing Wage Theft

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The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act is an extensive act of legislation that promises to stop wage theft in America. 

Broad Support

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It’s led by Senator Patty Murray and co-sponsored by almost 30 Senators, including Bernie Sanders, Tammy Baldwin, and most recently Martin Heinrich.

Understanding Wage Theft

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Wage theft is a serious issue in America. According to data from the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft costs Americans almost $50 billion a year. 

Its Impact on American Workers

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Employers withholding wages that employers are legally entitled to occurs across the country, and most victims never report it. 

The Reality of Wage Theft

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It hits more people on average than other forms of theft, yet is widely underreported to the authorities as people are worried about the repercussions that it could have, and many aren’t aware of what actually constitutes wage theft and that they can report it. 

Hidden Workplace Crisis

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Many experts have called it a “hidden workplace crisis” which is affecting hundreds of thousands of people on a regular basis.

Normalization of Violations

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Employers often commit wage violations, and this is normalized in a lot of companies. 

Common Stories

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It’s not uncommon to know people who haven’t been paid fairly for overtime, who have worked over their meal break for free, or who have been told to work off the clock. 

Company Policies and Exploitation

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A lot of big companies argue that “it’s company policy” to take tips from employees and try to justify their paying less than minimum wage, but these are all offenses under the law. 

Unpaid Overtime, Off-the-Clock Work, and More

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Even working a simple 15 minutes before and after a shift without clocking in is classed as wage theft.

Wage Theft 

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These “company policies” increase poverty and make life harder for low-income Americans. 

Department of Labor Data

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The Department of Labor recovered more than $3 billion in stolen wages between 2017 and 2020 on behalf of more than 1 million employees – over $1000 each.

These figures allegedly represent just a fraction of what companies actually owe.

Putting Money Back in Workers’ Pockets

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The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act aims to curb exploitative practices and put money back in the pockets of average Americans.

Key Provisions of the Act

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The Wage Theft Prevention Act aims to bolster workers’ rights and increase employer accountability. It seeks to address the widespread issue of wage theft, where many workers are unaware or struggle to recover their rightful earnings.

By mandating employers to provide transparent information on employment terms and pay through pay stubs, penalizing non-compliance, ensuring workers can recover all owed wages, and requiring prompt payment of final paychecks to departing employees with penalties for delays, the bill strives to protect workers from exploitation and ensure fair compensation.

Penalties for Employers Engaging in Wage Theft

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The Wage Theft Prevention Act aims to deter and punish violations effectively. Recognizing that current penalties are often insufficient, the bill proposes significant penalties for employers engaged in wage theft, including heightened fines and damages for willful or repeat offenses.

Additionally, it seeks to triple the damages owed to wage theft victims, along with interest on the owed wages, to ensure adequate compensation. Furthermore, the act strengthens protections for workers facing retaliation for reporting wage theft, offering quadruple damages if unlawfully terminated, thereby enhancing accountability and safeguarding workers’ rights.

Criminal Prosecution

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The Wage Theft Prevention Act aims to enhance enforcement for egregious violations. It targets employers involved in serious wage theft, such as falsifying records and retaliating against employees, by subjecting them to criminal prosecution. This measure seeks to ensure accountability and deter such unlawful practices, thereby protecting the rights of workers and promoting fair labor standards.

Empowering Workers

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The Wage Theft Prevention Act introduces measures to strengthen workers’ ability to recover stolen wages. It removes obstacles to collective action, extends the filing period for claims, mandates better record-keeping by employers, and establishes a grant program to support organizations assisting workers in fighting unfair treatment.

The Path Forward

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The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act aims to ensure that workers’ rights are upheld and their wallets aren’t impacted. 

Challenges in Legislation

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The bill is currently gaining steam, although it remains to be seen whether it will pass all the hurdles of government legislation.

The post Protecting Workers’ Rights: The Fight Against Wage Theft first appeared on Wealthy Living.

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.