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Wage theft by employers increasing nationwide

Most Americans would agree that our country is in the middle of a serious economic struggle. Jobs are hard to find, and those that are available often do not pay decent wages. The circumstances are made even worse when employers skim money from their workers' wages. This violation of employee rights seems to be a phenomenon that has become a problem nationwide. Wage theft may be done through stealing tips from servers, denying overtime pay for hours worked and even failing to pay minimum wage.

Texas employees are some of the people most likely to earn minimum wage or less, according to data from 2010. Victims of wage theft are often employees who work in low-wage positions. These include employees in fast food, domestic work, agriculture and construction. Workers have reported instances where their employers have improperly withheld wages, issued unsigned paychecks, taken illegal deductions from wages or classified a worker as an independent contractor to avoid paying required unemployment insurance.

Workers who are especially susceptible to wage theft are immigrants who speak limited English. When an employer steals from these vulnerable individuals, chances are that their misconduct will be overlooked. This is either because the employee's lack of fluency creates a communication barrier or because the employee does not want to draw attention to their status as an undocumented immigrant.

This growing problem has most likely occurred as employers try to reduce their labor budgets in order to remain financially viable. Employee unions are not as prominent as they once were, and as governments cut their budgets, fair wage standards are often not enforced. However, employees should know they have legal options they can pursue to recover what they are rightfully owed for their work.

Source: The Portland Press Herald, "Employer wage theft on the rise," June 6, 2012

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