Enforcement Matters: Wage Violations, Workers and the Economy

by Secretary Tom Perez on December 4, 2014

If you work hard and play by the rules, then you should be able to earn enough to take care of yourself and your family – that’s a core American value. But for too many people, their hard work isn’t reflected in their paychecks. In many cases, workers aren’t being fully and properly paid for all the hours they put in on the job. The Labor Department recently commissioned a research study on minimum wage violations in two states that demonstrates exactly that. But we are committed to using our enforcement tools to ensure workers get the wages that are rightfully theirs.

Using U.S. Census and earnings data from New York and California, this new study shows that many workers are earning a de facto minimum wage below the legal floor. Unscrupulous employers push their workers into poverty when they fail to pay what the law requires.

In those states, roughly 3 to 6 percent of all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act experience minimum wage violations – translating into a total of between $20 and $29 million in lost weekly income. That represents 40 percent or more of their total pay. Imagine if 40 cents out of every dollar you earned didn’t show up in your paycheck but in your employer’s pocket. For every hour of tough, on-your-feet work looking after children, cleaning homes, making hotel beds, preparing food in a restaurant or picking crops in a field, it’s possible you could be working 24 minutes for free. That’s just wrong.

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(USDOL Study)