The U.S. Department of Labor just announced it’s hiring 250 investigators to look into wage-and-hour violations. Why now? And what are they looking for?
First, the answer to the “why now?” question:
It starts with a recent report titled “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities.”
The report was based on face-to-face interviews with about 4,000 workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It was published by the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
A sample of the study’s findings:
- 76% who had worked overtime the previous week claimed they were not paid time-and-a-half for it.
- 26% said they were being paid less than the minimum wage.
- 75% of those interviewed earned less than $10 an hour.
- 69% of workers who were entitled to a meal break said they received no break at all, had their break shortened, were interrupted by their employer or worked during the break.
- 20% said they had made a complaint to their employer or attempted to form a union in the last year; of those, 43% said they’d experienced some form of retaliation — such as getting fired or being threatened with a pay cut.
So the violations that jumped out at DOL involve OT pay, minimum-wage violations, denied breaks mandated by law and illegal retaliation.
The study found that minimum-wage violation rates were most common in apparel and textile manufacturing, personal and repair services, and private households. Violation rates were substantially lower in residential construction, social assistance and education, and home health care.
Women were significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations, and foreign-born workers were nearly twice as likely as U.S.-born workers to suffer a minimum-wage violation, according to the report.
Click here to see the full report in PDF format.