More than 2 million workers in the nation’s 10 most populous states, including Texas, are being ripped off by their employers to the tune of $8 billion each year, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

When the other 40 states are added to the picture, the EPI believes the total cost to workers is closer to $15 billion. Wage theft also has a devastating effect on those who can least afford it, as minimum wage workers lose an estimated average of $3,300 each year.

What is wage theft?

There are many ways that companies keep you from receiving what you are owed. Wage theft includes:

  • Paying less than the legal minimum wage
  • Failing to pay employees overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per week
  • Asking or pressuring employees to work off-the-clock before or after their shifts
  • Denying workers meal breaks they are entitled to receive
  • Taking illegal deductions from workers’ paychecks
  • Refusing to provide detailed pay stubs
  • Seizing tips from workers who rely on them for income
  • Failing to pay the difference between tips and minimum wage
  • Wrongly classifying employees as independent contractors

Wage theft is an equal opportunity violation

The EPI says women, people of color, immigrants and younger workers are more likely to report instances of wage theft than other employees. However, the nonpartisan think tank says the majority of affected workers are over 25 years old, and about half are white.

The study found that, of the 10 states where data was analyzed, Texas and Pennsylvania companies are the worst minimum wage violators, as the average victim is cheated out of more than 30% of their pay.

Hold employers accountable for stealing wages

Workers have long been protected from wage and hour violations by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. However, critics say updates to the FLSA over the past few decades have failed to keep pace with changes to the economy and employment.

You work hard to provide the best possible life for you and your family and deserve to be treated fairly by your company. If you suspect your employer is stealing wages, an experienced employment law attorney will protect your rights and fight to see that you are compensated.