News that wage theft is on the rise is not new, and, since the economy began to crash and hemorrhage jobs, worker conditions have steadily decreased. As staff is cut or companies deal with a reduced team, oftentimes the work falls to those who remain (grateful to have a job at all), and, commonly, these workers are not compensated properly if at all for their additional hours and workloads.
That wage theft is on the rise is also not surprising, considering the loopholes that allow employers to skirt protections for employees and engage in such behavior as demanding unpaid overtime. But as the recession fades, workers and local governments are stepping up awareness of the issue, and the past few weeks have seen a number of victories for the American worker.
A recent Baltimore Sun piece on wage theft delves into the issue, speaking to both exploited workers and labor advocates about the problem of wage theft. Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, explained why workers are often hard-pressed to fight wage theft alone, saying that a seemingly inexhaustible supply of workers allows labor law violations to become rife:
“Speaking up can be ‘job suicide,’ Ruckelshaus said. ‘There are 10 people waiting in line to take your job. Oftentimes, workers grin and bear it.’ “
Mark Lara, district director for the Baltimore office of the US Department of Labor, told the paper:
“We’re here to make sure the people in the states of Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia are getting paid, getting paid properly, legally and on time – when it’s payday … That’s an extremely important job, in my opinion, and my staff understands that.”
While wage theft is on the rise, experts in human resources say it may only get worse. The proliferation of the practice, they say, makes it nearly impossible for “ethical businesses to compete.”