The Stand

How to report wage theft in Washington state

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OLYMPIA (Oct. 7, 2013) –Washington state’s “underground economy” is fueled, in part, by the shockingly common practice of wage theft, where businesses simply refuse to pay for hours worked. It harms people who are denied their wages and basic employment protections, it harms responsible law-abiding employers by undermining their ability to compete, and it harms state and local governments that are denied revenue, including unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation premiums.

This wage-theft protest happened in Seattle on Aug. 1. Click for the story.

This wage-theft protest happened in Seattle on Aug. 1. Click for the story.

As fast-food workers in Seattle and across the nation have begun standing up for fair pay and basic workplace protections, the issue of wage theft has gained attention. Wage theft occurs when an employer fails to pay time-and-half for hours over 40 in a week; requires employees to work without pay before or after their shifts, or during breaks; takes illegal deductions from paychecks, for example for uniforms or register shortages; or otherwise fails to lawfully pay workers for all their hours worked.

A multi-city study by the National Employment Law Project found that about 68% of low-wage workers experience some form of wage theft, and that those who do experience wage theft lose approximately 15% of their income to the crime.

One of the best ways to combat wage theft is to make sure it gets reported. Businesses and contractors that break the law need to be identified and held accountable.

If you or someone you know in Washington state has not received regular pay, overtime pay, and rest and meal breaks, or been denied the use of earned sick leave to care for a sick family member, or any other protected leave issue, click here to file a complaint. It is against the law for a business to fire or otherwise discriminate against a worker for filing a complaint about a possible violation of their workplace rights.

If you know of an employer abusing the workers’ compensation system, click here to file a complaint. Although the state Department of Labor & Industries may need to contact you regarding the complaint, you can opt to remain anonymous to protect yourself from any retailiation.

(If you live in another state, contact your state labor offices to report wage theft and unscrupulous employers.)

If you aren’t in a position today where you can file a complaint, that’s understandable. What you can do: keep your own time records, you have up to three years to file a complaint.

For more information, visit the Department of Labor and Industries website.

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