Employment Law Blog

Wage Theft: An American Epidemic

10/4/2016 by Joseph M. Hekmat


Unpaid wages are a huge problem for employees in California as well as throughout the entire nation.  Employers large and small routinely ignore federal law that requires they pay certain employees time and a half for overtime hours as well as other laws regulating payment of their employees.  Unpaid wages are a particular problem for the lowest wage workers who can least afford to have their rights violated by their employer.

Employers Are Not Properly Paying Their Wages in the United States

Unpaid compensation is a huge problem throughout the country for low wage earning workers who can least afford to be taken advantage of in this manner.  A nationwide survey of lower-wage workers conducted in 2008 by staff members of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a non-profit organization that assists workers in fighting for and advocating for their rights, found that (i) 26 percent of low-wage workers surveyed were paid less than the minimum wage in the prior week and (ii) 76 percent of those who worked more than 40 hours in a week were not paid the legally required overtime rate of time and a half under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Incredibly, the NELP survey also found that more than two-thirds of low-wage workers had experienced at least one pay related violation by their employer in the previous work week.  This resulted in the low wage workers surveyed losing an average of $2,634 each annually due to workplace unpaid wage law violations by their employers.

Unpaid Wages in California: A Particular Problem

Although unpaid wages are a problem throughout the entire country, wage theft is a particular problem in California.  When the UCLA Labor Center and the NELP performed their own report of the problem of unpaid wages in California, their findings were just as shocking, if not more shocking than the figures discussed above: between 2008 and 2011, workers recovered only 42 percent of approximately $390 million in total unpaid wages verified as owed to these employees by California’s Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), the agency charged with enforcing California’s pay and labor laws.  The study also found that even when workers prevailed in obtaining judgments against their employers for unpaid wages, employees had difficulty collecting those amounts.  For instance, the study found that only 17 percent of California workers who were successful in pursuing an unpaid wages claims before the DLSE were able to recover any money at all from their employer between 2008 and 2011.  The report also found that, although the DLSE issued awards to employees for unpaid wages of more than $282 million between 2008 and 2011, California workers were able to collect a mere $42 million—roughly 15 percent—of those awards from their employers.

Contact Hekmat Law Group if You Are an Employee With an Unpaid Wages Claim

The experienced lawyers of the Hekmat Law Group have extensive experience representing employees who have not been paid the wages they are entitled to under the law.   If your employer refuses to properly compensate you for all the hours that you have worked, please contact the experienced and aggressive employee rights attorneys of the Hekmat Law Group at 424-888-4LAW to discuss your potential legal options today.