In a study released last week financed by the Ford, Joyce, Haynes and Russell Sage Foundations, low wage workers were found to be the victims of widespread violations of federal minimum wage and overtime laws.
Overtime violations were especially frequent. “Over a quarter of our respondents worked more than 40 hours during the previous work week for a single employer and were therefore at risk for an overtime violation. As Table 3.1 indicates, 76 percent of these “at risk” workers were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers. The overtime violation rate among all workers in our sample (that is, regardless of whether they worked overtime or not in the previous week) was 19 percent.”
“These practices are not just morally reprehensible, but they’re bad for the economy,” said Annette Bernhardt, an author of the study and policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project. “When unscrupulous employers break the law, they’re robbing families of money to put food on the table, they’re robbing communities of spending power and they’re robbing governments of vital tax revenues.”
One of the most powerful tools against violations like this is the collective action mechanism found in the FLSA which allows groups of employees to pool their resources and sue as a group. Employers have attacked these lawsuits recently and their attorneys are constantly finding new ways to undermine them. See my recent post on collective action waivers.
To those of you who represent these workers, keep up the good work. To those victims of these illegal practices, fight for your rights!