Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Millions stolen from NC workers

The North Carolina Justice Center last week issued a research brief on wage theft--the non-payment or under-payment of owed wages by employers. The brief tallies statistics from the North Carolina Wage and Hour Bureau on workers' complaints about being stiffed on promised wages by their employers. The total value of confirmed, investigated wage theft by employers rose from $3.8 million in FY 2010 to $4.7 million in FY 2011; however, the amount recovered fell from $1.9 million in FY 2010 to $1.8 million in FY 2011.

Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicate that about $230 billion was earned by NC in wages and salaries in 2010. So the $4.7 million figure represents a tiny fraction of total payments, but the $4.7 million also likely undercounts the total extent of wage theft because it omits small cases (the Wage and Hour Bureau won't even consider a case under $50), other cases that were not reported, and cases that were pending investigation.

The extent of investigated and confirmed wage theft is up sharply from previous years. From FY 2007-2009, the amounts of documented theft ranged from $1.3 million to $2.0 million. The proportion recovered is down substantially--88 percent of the wages due were recovered in FY 2007, but only 38 percent of wages due were recovered in FY 2011.

When a worker takes money from an employer, it is theft or embezzlement, and the worker can be hauled off to jail. When an employer takes money from workers, it is an administrative or civil matter, and when the employer closes its doors, it's a tough sh*t, just bidness matter.