Wage and hour disputes recover billions in stolen wages

Over the next few months, workers in Tennessee and across the United States will be gathering documents to complete their income tax returns. Some may be shocked when they receive their W-2s and realize just how little money they earned over the past year, especially when they reflect on how hard they worked and how many hours they put in. What may be even more painful is the fact that many of those workers would have earned much more if not for wage theft.

If anyone still doubts whether wage theft is a problem in this country, the latest study released by the Economic Policy Institute may convince them otherwise. The data shows that workers probably lost more than $50 billion in wage theft over the past two years. About $2 billion was recovered through class action settlements and state and federal labor agencies. There is no indication that the situation will improve, especially for those most vulnerable to wage theft: workers in the food services industry.

The most common type of wage theft involves minimum wage violations. Since many restaurant and bar employees are paid less than minimum wage and rely on tips to make a living, they are frequently the victims of violations. For example, employers may divert their tips, fail to pay overtime or force them to work off the clock.

While federal investigations into wage and hour disputes are rare, this does not mean employees have no recourse if their employers are taking advantage of them. The advocacy of an attorney dedicated to defending the rights of workers can be a decided advantage to employees in Tennessee who are being treated unfairly. Reaching out for advice and guidance may result in positive changes.

Source: workdayminnesota.com, "EPI Report: $2 billion in stolen wages recovered in 2015 & 2016", Dec. 29, 2017

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