WASHINGTON—Government actions and class-action lawsuits recovered almost $2 billion in 2015-16 in wages stolen from workers, according to a study released Dec. 13 by the Economic Policy Institute. The federal Department of Labor got more than $500 million, state governments about $320 million, and class-action settlements about $1.16 billion. The forms of wage theft included paying workers less than the minimum wage, not paying overtime, and forcing them to work off the clock or not paying them for all the hours they worked. “It is important to note that these data do not represent the amount of wages stolen from workers each year,” the study cautioned, saying that the recovery figures “likely dramatically underrepresent the problem of wage theft, since probably only a fraction of victims actually file complaints with the government. Similarly, only a fraction of victims are involved in class action settlements.” The EPI estimated earlier this year that minimum-wage violations alone cheat workers out of at least $15 billion a year—more than the $12.7 billion the FBI estimates as the total annual value of all robberies, burglaries, larceny, and motor-vehicle theft in the United States. Read more


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