Sep 25, 2009

Low Wage Worker Survey Reveals Widespread Wage and Hour Violations

Earlier this month, a report was released on a 2008 survey of low-wage workers in the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The title of the report, "Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America's Cities," kind of gives away the ending. The statistics are truly shocking:

  • More than a quarter of those surveyed reported that they had received less than the minimum wage in the previous week, and 60% of those reported being underpaid by more than $1 per hour.
  • More than three-quarters(!) of those surveyed reported not being paid for overtime worked in the previous week -- and they averaged 11 hours of weekly overtime.
  • Almost a quarter worked off the clock (and weren't paid for it), and nearly two-thirds of those entitled to a meal break didn't receive the full, uninterrupted, work-free break required by law.
  • 41% had illegal deductions taken from their paycheck (for breakage or to pay for tools or other items required for work, for example).
  • 43% of those who had made a complaint or tried to form a union in the past year faced retaliation. One-fifth reported that they had not complained about a serious workplace problem in the past year, primarily because they feared losing their job.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told the New York Times that the report "shows that we still have a major task before us." She also indicated that she's in the process of hiring 250 more wage and hour investigators.

To find out more about wage and hour laws, including the minimum wage, overtime, and what counts as an hour worked, see the Compensation and Benefits section of Nolo's website.