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Three ways your bosses are stealing your pay

A reason for the widening gap between the few at the top and everyone else is simply power

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Workers pack orders at an Amazon fulfillment center.

The rich are getting richer, and everyone else is lucky just to keep running in the same spot.

One reason for the widening gap between the few at the top and everyone else is simply power: Bosses have it and workers don’t. Over the past few decades, workers’ rights have deteriorated, as companies figured out more ways to squeeze their workers.

Here are three ways companies cheat their workers.

Wage theft

One of the easiest ways to cheat workers is to simply not pay them what they’ve earned. No one knows exactly how widespread this practice is, but about $1 billion in stolen wages is recovered every year, and that’s surely the tip of the iceberg. Tens of millions of workers have all or part of their wages stolen, with an annual cost to workers of about $50 billion, according to one estimate from the Economic Policy Institute, one of the few think tanks in Washington that thinks about working people.

For a typical low-wage worker, wage theft can reduce take-home pay by 10% or more. In one three-city study, two-thirds of low-wage workers reported at least one pay-related violation, with the average loss amounting to $2,634 per year.

That’s a lot of money to someone who makes less than $20,000 a year!

How bad is it? Even Clarence Thomas is advising you to join a union.

The fact that wage theft isn’t a big national issue just shows how powerless workers are: They can’t even get anyone to care that they are getting ripped off every day they go to work.

How do companies cheat workers out of pay? Sometimes they don’t pay workers for legally mandated breaks. Sometimes they require workers to be on call without pay. Sometimes they refuse to pay overtime. Sometimes they pay less than the minimum wage, or refuse to pay tips that were earned. Sometimes they won’t pay separated workers their last paycheck. Sometimes companies go out of business and never pay the workers what they are owed, even if other creditors do get paid.

Misclassified ‘independent’ contractors

One form of wage theft deserves its own entry: the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. Millions of workers are affected, especially in industries such as construction, truck driving, real estate, home care, janitorial and high-tech jobs.