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Wage Theft

A significant number of U.S. workers are being denied core wage and workplace protections that many Americans take for granted—the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, the right to be paid for overtime hours, the right to take meal breaks, access to workers’ compensation when injured and the right to advocate for better working conditions. According to a study for the National Employment Law Project, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the Center on Urban Economic Development:

  • Fully 26 percent of workers were paid less than the legally required minimum wage in the previous work week.
  • More than a quarter of respondents worked more than 40 hours during the previous week. Of those, 76 percent were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers.
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations, and foreign-born workers were nearly twice as likely as their U.S.-born counterparts to have a minimum wage violation.
  • Foreign-born Latino workers had the highest minimum wage violation rates of any racial/ethnic group. But among U.S.-born workers, there were significant race differences: African-American workers had a violation rate triple that of their white counterparts.
    • Some 86 percent of respondents worked sufficient consecutive hours to be legally entitled to at least one meal break during the previous week. Of these workers, more than two-thirds (69 percent) received no break at all, had their break shortened, were interrupted by their employer, or worked during the break—all of which constitute a violation of meal break law.

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