# Wage Theft

##### Loony Running The Asylum
Staff member

Something I've learned while in law school is about the social construction of crime. I work in a legal clinic on wage theft cases, where employers have "improperly paid" workers by not paying, paying below min wage, withholding overtime, paid sick time, etc. 1/

Most theft is wage theft. Meaning, the dollar value of stolen wages is greater than the value, each year, of all burglaries+robberies, shoplifting, auto theft, combined. Yet, wage theft is NOT A CRIME 2/

If you steal $100 from your employer, you will get arrested. If you call the police because your paycheck is$100 light, the police will tell you to file a complaint with the AG, and the AG will settle the case for between $50 and$200. 3/

(That's actually not true, bc AG's only take on big cases with thousands of dollars are stake, but they will settle big cases by typically requiring the employer to properly pay what is owed. No jail, no criminal record). 4/

If the AG doesn't want to take the case, it will give you a Private Right of Action to sue the employer in civil court for what you are owed, plus damages. It can take a 6 to 18 months to win at trial, and months or years to collect on the judgment if you win. 5/

In short, we address the predominant form of theft in the US with civil court cases, not criminal cases. We have literally defined "wage theft" as not a crime. Theft by you, a crime. Theft by your employer, not a crime.

This is what we mean when we say crime is "socially constructed." Not all social harms are criminalized. Not all actors committing social harm are criminalized.

I settled a case for $27K for three clients last year. We spent a MONTH negotiating the non-disclosure agreement because the employer stated if all his employees sued him and settled like this, he would go BANKRUPT. His business model DEPENDED on wage theft. 8/ These employers go on to hold elected office. 45 famously used wage theft to improve his finances on construction projects, leaving a trail of victims in his wake. Some sued and he had to pay them. Others didn't have resources to pursue multi-year litigation + got nothing. 9/ What should we do about it? criminalize employers or decriminalize theft or something else? 10/ Wage theft shows that we believe restitution is important. Giving the money back is important. Currently, AG keeps track of bad actors and will increase future financial penalties for bad actors. 11/ It also shows when harm is committed, we don't have to lock someone in a cage or label them a felon, both of which destroy years of life even after the sentence is over. We can demand restitution instead of punishment. 11/ It also shows how ridiculous the label "high crime neighborhood" is. And the arbitrary and racist response of police surveillance in HCN. Because we defined it that way. Consider the social construction of murder: 12/ Poison a person, go to jail, they call you a felon for life. Poison a city resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands with brain damage, get a teaching fellowship at Harvard, they call you ex-Gov of Michigan Rick Snyder. Same with much corporate poisoning. 13/ The people commiting the most harm aren't in jail, don't live in high crime neighborhoods. And "black people commit more crime" is true only bc of how we have defined crimes, and how we then surveil their community in response to find more crimes. 14/" Thoughts? #### Trausti ##### Deleted If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed. #### ruby sparks ##### Contributor Thoughts? Wiki says: ".....in the US$40 billion to $60 billion in total are lost annually due to all forms of wage theft. This compares to national annual losses of$340 million due to robbery, $4.1 billion due to burglary,$5.3 billion due to larceny, and $3.8 billion due to auto theft in 2012." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_theft#Incidence I can't recall ever seeing it on the news, I must admit. Between7 and 8 times as much loss as car theft and burglary combined, according to that. Thanks for highlighting. Can we do not paying taxes next? #### Harry Bosch ##### Contributor C/P'd from a twitter user.: Something I've learned while in law school is about the social construction of crime. I work in a legal clinic on wage theft cases, where employers have "improperly paid" workers by not paying, paying below min wage, withholding overtime, paid sick time, etc. 1/ Most theft is wage theft. Meaning, the dollar value of stolen wages is greater than the value, each year, of all burglaries+robberies, shoplifting, auto theft, combined. Yet, wage theft is NOT A CRIME 2/ View attachment 28932 If you steal$100 from your employer, you will get arrested. If you call the police because your paycheck is $100 light, the police will tell you to file a complaint with the AG, and the AG will settle the case for between$50 and $200. 3/ (That's actually not true, bc AG's only take on big cases with thousands of dollars are stake, but they will settle big cases by typically requiring the employer to properly pay what is owed. No jail, no criminal record). 4/ If the AG doesn't want to take the case, it will give you a Private Right of Action to sue the employer in civil court for what you are owed, plus damages. It can take a 6 to 18 months to win at trial, and months or years to collect on the judgment if you win. 5/ In short, we address the predominant form of theft in the US with civil court cases, not criminal cases. We have literally defined "wage theft" as not a crime. Theft by you, a crime. Theft by your employer, not a crime. This is what we mean when we say crime is "socially constructed." Not all social harms are criminalized. Not all actors committing social harm are criminalized. I settled a case for$27K for three clients last year. We spent a MONTH negotiating the non-disclosure agreement because the employer stated if all his employees sued him and settled like this, he would go BANKRUPT. His business model DEPENDED on wage theft. 8/

These employers go on to hold elected office. 45 famously used wage theft to improve his finances on construction projects, leaving a trail of victims in his wake. Some sued and he had to pay them. Others didn't have resources to pursue multi-year litigation + got nothing. 9/

What should we do about it? criminalize employers or decriminalize theft or something else? 10/

Wage theft shows that we believe restitution is important. Giving the money back is important. Currently, AG keeps track of bad actors and will increase future financial penalties for bad actors. 11/

It also shows when harm is committed, we don't have to lock someone in a cage or label them a felon, both of which destroy years of life even after the sentence is over. We can demand restitution instead of punishment. 11/

It also shows how ridiculous the label "high crime neighborhood" is. And the arbitrary and racist response of police surveillance in HCN. Because we defined it that way.

Consider the social construction of murder: 12/

Poison a person, go to jail, they call you a felon for life. Poison a city resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands with brain damage, get a teaching fellowship at Harvard, they call you ex-Gov of Michigan Rick Snyder. Same with much corporate poisoning. 13/

The people commiting the most harm aren't in jail, don't live in high crime neighborhoods. And "black people commit more crime" is true only bc of how we have defined crimes, and how we then surveil their community in response to find more crimes. 14/"

Thoughts?

Yea, it's a big deal if you don't pay your workers. Boli will put you out of business and place the amount owed to the workers as a first out type of expense.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

That is one form of tax fraud that is prosecuted to the limit. For any other kind of tax problem, such as under reporting or claiming non-allowed deductions, State and Federal revenue services want to keep the business operating so they can collect the taxes, and the fines. Not remitting payroll taxes or tax withholding is a sure ticket to prison, as well as paying the owed taxes, and the fines.

In my state(Louisiana) the State Labor Board doesn't have much to do. We are an "at will" state, so anyone can be fired and no reason needs to be given beyond "we don't need you anymore."

What the Labor Board spends most of its time doing is investigating wage disputes. I've seen several cases as they were worked out and the employee usually wins.

#### Loren Pechtel

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

He's talking about transactions between employer and worker, not between the employer and the government. They are usually treated as civil disputes. The problem is the government is more interested in easy settlements than actually stomping out the wrongdoing.

#### Trausti

##### Deleted
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

He's talking about transactions between employer and worker, not between the employer and the government. They are usually treated as civil disputes. The problem is the government is more interested in easy settlements than actually stomping out the wrongdoing.

If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

#### KeepTalking

##### Code Monkey
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

He's talking about transactions between employer and worker, not between the employer and the government. They are usually treated as civil disputes. The problem is the government is more interested in easy settlements than actually stomping out the wrongdoing.

If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

Oh look at that, distracting from a distraction with another distraction, how...

very much like you.

#### krypton iodine sulfur

##### Banned
Banned
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

He's talking about transactions between employer and worker, not between the employer and the government. They are usually treated as civil disputes. The problem is the government is more interested in easy settlements than actually stomping out the wrongdoing.

If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

The relationship between patient and doctor is client to service provider, not employer to employee. Failiure to pay your bill could result in a legal dispute/ debt collection measures, but it is not wage theft.

#### Ruth Harris

##### Token Christian,retired bad-ass level tech support
Yes, I think it should be criminalized – but it probably wouldn’t have much effect.

I was a victim of this in my younger days. I worked 12 to 16 hour days, 6 and 7 days a week and was only paid for 8 hours per day 5 days a week. I was classed as a salaried employee. Being divorced and raising my son with next to no child support (my ex worked mostly for cash), I was terrified of losing my job and having no way to pay our bills.

I did investigate the possibility of reporting my employer to the MO Department of Labor who has jurisdiction in our state, but found that they did not do anything for salaried employees unless your total earnings divided by the number of hours worked yielded less than the current minimum wage. In my case, my stated hourly wage was just enough to put me on the borderline with that criteria. The investigator was not interested in pursuing my case.

So I spoke with an attorney friend, and he told me bluntly that I had no chance of gaining anything by filing suit unless I was willing to quit my job immediately and had a multitude of fellow employees who were willing to testify for me. Of course, this would have likely caused them to lose their jobs too. He also pointed out that it would probably take years before this case even settled or came up in court as the company attorney would delay, delay, delay – and even if it went to trial, this was a company with a stellar reputation in the community and big pockets to buy witnesses for their side.

I stuck it out until I could find another job. It was very difficult for me to even find time for interviews so I only applied to jobs that I believed were well within my capabilities to ace the interview. I got the second job applied for after a single interview with the company.

The whole issue comes down to the fact that these companies get away with this because their employees need the income from those jobs. And I think if you do any checking, you will find that most of these companies have near perfect reputations for their work so it is an uphill battle to even convince people they are capable of doing things like that.

Ruth

#### Harry Bosch

##### Contributor
Yes, I think it should be criminalized – but it probably wouldn’t have much effect.

I was a victim of this in my younger days. I worked 12 to 16 hour days, 6 and 7 days a week and was only paid for 8 hours per day 5 days a week. I was classed as a salaried employee. Being divorced and raising my son with next to no child support (my ex worked mostly for cash), I was terrified of losing my job and having no way to pay our bills.

I did investigate the possibility of reporting my employer to the MO Department of Labor who has jurisdiction in our state, but found that they did not do anything for salaried employees unless your total earnings divided by the number of hours worked yielded less than the current minimum wage. In my case, my stated hourly wage was just enough to put me on the borderline with that criteria. The investigator was not interested in pursuing my case.

So I spoke with an attorney friend, and he told me bluntly that I had no chance of gaining anything by filing suit unless I was willing to quit my job immediately and had a multitude of fellow employees who were willing to testify for me. Of course, this would have likely caused them to lose their jobs too. He also pointed out that it would probably take years before this case even settled or came up in court as the company attorney would delay, delay, delay – and even if it went to trial, this was a company with a stellar reputation in the community and big pockets to buy witnesses for their side.

I stuck it out until I could find another job. It was very difficult for me to even find time for interviews so I only applied to jobs that I believed were well within my capabilities to ace the interview. I got the second job applied for after a single interview with the company.

The whole issue comes down to the fact that these companies get away with this because their employees need the income from those jobs. And I think if you do any checking, you will find that most of these companies have near perfect reputations for their work so it is an uphill battle to even convince people they are capable of doing things like that.

Ruth

Were you an exempt worker or a non exempt worker?

#### Ruth Harris

##### Token Christian,retired bad-ass level tech support
Exempt - I was in a managerial position.

Ruth

#### Harry Bosch

##### Contributor
Exempt - I was in a managerial position.

Ruth

Well, I'm not an attorney. But it's my understanding that salaried workers who are non-exempt are eligible for OT. Exempt employees aren't eligible for OT and can work for than 40 hours a week per federal law.

#### Loren Pechtel

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

He's talking about transactions between employer and worker, not between the employer and the government. They are usually treated as civil disputes. The problem is the government is more interested in easy settlements than actually stomping out the wrongdoing.

If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

I do think it should be a civil matter, I just dislike how they are far more interested in easy settlements than correcting wrongs. If the penalty basically just takes away the ill-gotten gains there's no incentive to behave.

#### Loren Pechtel

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

Oh look at that, distracting from a distraction with another distraction, how...

very much like you.

Distraction? He had a valid point and didn't realize I agree with it.

#### Ruth Harris

##### Token Christian,retired bad-ass level tech support
Actually, what I discovered is that Missouri law says that any employee can be ordered to work over 40 hours a week; Missouri has no restrictions on hours allowed for adults. Only non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay as you state. But the labor department only gets involved when your gross pay for the week divided by the hours you work equals less than you would be paid if receiving minimum wage. For exempt employees that means your salary divided by hours worked just has to meet the standard minimum wage with no overtime calculations involved.

Ruth

#### Harry Bosch

##### Contributor
Actually, what I discovered is that Missouri law says that any employee can be ordered to work over 40 hours a week; Missouri has no restrictions on hours allowed for adults. Only non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay as you state. But the labor department only gets involved when your gross pay for the week divided by the hours you work equals less than you would be paid if receiving minimum wage. For exempt employees that means your salary divided by hours worked just has to meet the standard minimum wage with no overtime calculations involved.

Ruth

Well, I'm not claiming that it is right. But would not agree that if something is legal, that it can't be called "theft"?

#### Ruth Harris

##### Token Christian,retired bad-ass level tech support
In my case, it wasn't legal. When I was hired for that position my contract specified that extraordinary work hours would not be required on a regular basis. The longer I was employed there, the more duties were assigned to me. It was simply not possible to complete all of them in a normal work week, and it was made clear that my continued employment depended on me completing those tasks. I suspect this is a common dodge among employers who don't want to actually pay for the work that has to be done.

Ruth

#### bilby

##### Fair dinkum thinkum
Actually, what I discovered is that Missouri law says that any employee can be ordered to work over 40 hours a week; Missouri has no restrictions on hours allowed for adults. Only non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay as you state. But the labor department only gets involved when your gross pay for the week divided by the hours you work equals less than you would be paid if receiving minimum wage. For exempt employees that means your salary divided by hours worked just has to meet the standard minimum wage with no overtime calculations involved.

Ruth

Well, I'm not claiming that it is right. But would not agree that if something is legal, that it can't be called "theft"?

Given that the entire premise of the thread is that wage theft should be a crime, but is not, it seems that you are seriously missing the point when you worry about what is or is not legal.

Lots of immoral things are legal. The thread is asking whether wage theft is sufficiently immoral that it's legal status should be changed from merely a civil illegality, to a criminal offence.

If an employee takes a $10 from the till, he is committing a crime. If the boss takes$10 from the employee's paycheck, he isn't committing a crime. This seems to me to be clearly inequitable, and either both thefts should be a civil matter, or both should be criminal.

Whether or not you want to call these offences 'theft' is a pointless quibble; Whether that nomenclature is dependent on the legal (rather than moral) status of these actions is a quibble about a quibble - and doubly pointless.

#### KeepTalking

##### Code Monkey
If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

Oh look at that, distracting from a distraction with another distraction, how...

very much like you.

Distraction? He had a valid point and didn't realize I agree with it.

Whether you agree with it or not, the following comment from Trausti was a distraction from the OP regarding Wage Theft:
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

What does an employer pocketing payroll taxes have to do with it? That happens regardless of whether or not the employer is practicing wage theft.

This next exchange has you calling him out on that (calling out placed in boldface):
If an employer pockets an employee’s payroll taxes, that most definitely is a crime. The OP is somewhat misinformed.

He's talking about transactions between employer and worker, not between the employer and the government. They are usually treated as civil disputes. The problem is the government is more interested in easy settlements than actually stomping out the wrongdoing.

If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?

Trausti responding with "If you don’t pay your doctor’s bill, is it wage theft?" was a distraction from you having called out his previous distraction.

The fact that you agree with him has very little to do with him shitting all over this thread with irrelevant distractions.