Imagine if you worked a few 50 hour weeks in a row, but payday never seemed to come around. When you finally did get paid, you were paid for less than 40 hours a week and your overtime was nowhere to be found. For many immigrant and undocumented workers in the United States, the concept of wage theft is a reality that is taking millions of dollars from their pockets, while allowing contractors to get rich.
What Is Wage Theft?
In order to avoid payroll taxes and benefits, some contractors are taking on subcontractors and employees as independent contractors. According to the Boston Globe, if these workers are acting on orders from the contractor, then they are employees and the independent contractor arrangement is illegal.
But the use of the independent contractor guise still goes on and, in most cases, the independent contractors are operating under verbal contracts and agreed to get paid in cash. When it comes time to pay up, the main contractors are withholding pay and stealing these workers’ wages.
How Bad Is The Situation?
In the commonwealth of Massachusetts, there was an 18-month span from 2013 to 2015 where 253 citations for wage theft were issued and $1.6 million dollars were recovered. This represents one state and it only indicates the cases that were discovered and resolved. The problem is costing workers millions of dollars each year and is prevalent throughout the country.
The problem of wage theft is even being seen in federal contracting as well. According to EPI.org, it is estimated that 35 of the 100 most egregious wage theft violations issued by the federal government between 2007 and 2012 were to federal contractors. Apparently, working under the watchful eyes of the federal government is still not enough to protect workers.
What Is Being Done?
At a federal level, there is legislation being introduced that will prevent any contractor who is hit with a wage theft violation from ever working on a government contract again. This, along with a few other labor reform laws, shows that the feds are taking the issue of wage theft very seriously.
In Massachusetts, the commonwealth is using education and enforcement to help crack down on wage theft. While state officials do admit that enforcement is a tough route because of a lack of manpower, they are hoping that putting the word out on how to avoid being a victim of wage theft will steer workers clear of these types of arrangements.
You can make a difference by getting your Massachusetts supervisors license and setting an example for others to follow. When you enroll in the Massachusetts Contractors Academy, you will be given the courses you need to pass your licensing test and be put in a position to help workers get the pay they deserve. You do not have to pay for your course until you complete it and you will be taking your construction career in a responsible and admirable direction.