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New Numbers Reveal Impact of Wage Theft in America

American workers lose billions of dollars to wage theftAmericans lose more money to wage left every year than businesses lose to shoplifting. The numbers were published in a recent post to and reveal that while American businesses lose upward of $14.7 billion each year to shoplifting, American workers lose approximately $17 billion each year to employers who use a variety of tactics to bilk them out of their wages.

The average wage theft victim in the worst states loses some 30% of his or her annual earnings to wage theft which, in the majority of cases, is accomplished by paying the worker less than the mandated minimum wage. And, in a system where the worst thing that can happen to an employer found guilty of wage theft is a meager $1,000 fine, it’s actually more profitable for the employer to continue stealing wages and paying the fines rather than correcting their behavior and taking care of their workers.

Wage theft doesn’t just stop with a failure to pay the minimum wage, however. Any situation where an employee is doing work without being compensated for that work can be considered wage theft. That includes the restaurant server asked to take care of one more table after they’ve clocked out for the night to the warehouse worker forced to stand in a security line for 15 minutes on their way out the door after they’ve clocked out of their shift.

Wage theft also disproportionately affects minorities and people of color. As David Cooper, a senior economic analyst explains, “people of color, young workers, and immigrants have less bargaining power, historically speaking. Any time a worker doesn’t feel like they can speak up, they are more likely to be victimized.”

Wage theft can take many forms and in some cases the victim may not even know they’ve had wages stolen from them. Check out a breakdown of the various forms of wage theft here.