Wage Theft: The Multi-Million Dollar Problem Pennsylvania Workers Should Know About
Researchers from Temple University say employees lose up to $32 million per year
A new report out of Temple University sheds light on a problem that’s hitting Pennsylvania workers in the wallet: wage theft.
Some staggering statistics were revealed in Shortchanged: How Wage Theft Harms Pennsylvania’s Workers and Economy, published by the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
According to the report, every week:
Nearly 400,000 Pennsylvania workers experience a minimum wage violation.
Over 300,000 Pennsylvania workers experience an overtime violation.
$19–$32 million in wages are stolen from workers in the state.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft is the illegal nonpayment or underpayment of wages. It can take many forms, including:
Minimum wage violations, in which workers are paid below the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Overtime violations, in which employers fail to pay eligible employees time-and-one-half for any hours worked beyond the 40-hour threshold in a week. Employers may intentionally misclassify workers to avoid paying overtime, or they may offer confusing rationales for how they calculate the number of hours worked.
Illegal pay deductions, including unreimbursed charges for equipment rental, gas, uniforms, or other items needed to do the job, as well as charges for alleged theft, short cash registers, or damage to property or equipment.
Tip violations, in which employers keep all or a portion of workers’ tips. (It’s important to note that tip pooling and tip sharing among employees is generally legal.)
Shorting of hours, in which workers are not paid for all hours worked, are forced to work before or after their shifts, or aren’t paid for travel or on-call time.
Delayed or missed payment of wages, in which a company fails to pay employees or doesn’t pay within a standard of time that’s customary for the industry.
Who is at Risk?
Workers who aren’t being consistently and adequately compensated may lose up to 15% of their earnings through wage theft, according to the report.
Unfortunately, lower-income employees are most often the victims of wage theft. Reason: Dishonest employers often count on the fact that workers may not know their rights.
What You Need to Know
To protect yourself, you should be aware that the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act and the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act guarantee workers the right to minimum wage, to overtime for hours worked beyond the 40-hour threshold each week, and to be paid the hourly wage that was promised to them.
Of course, employers who are in the business of shortchanging their workers are likely to offer intentionally confusing and complicated explanations if employees attempt to clarify questions about their pay.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to speak to an attorney if you suspect that you’ve been a victim of wage theft.
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