Wage theft is a big problem for Idaho. Every year, hardworking families get fleeced by predatory contractors and employers. Sometimes, employers steal from their workers without them knowing it by exploiting loopholes in labor laws. Other times, it is a simple clerical error identified when the employee files an annual tax return.
I have been working on legislation to help Idahoans get their wages back. Idaho only allows victims of wage theft to collect 6 months of back wages regardless of how long their wages have been stolen. My bill increases this timeframe to one year so that hardworking Idahoans have time to recover wages rightfully owed to them.
What is wage theft?
Wage theft includes failure to pay overtime, violating minimum wage laws, employee misclassification, illegal deductions, forcing employees to work off the clock, or not paying employees at all. Each result in the same situation, an employer doesn’t pay the wages or benefits rightfully owed to an employee.
What does wage theft do?
Effects of wage theft are felt nationwide, particularly in low-wage jobs. A survey conducted by the Economic Policy Institute suggested that wage theft costs US workers billions of dollars each year. For example, misclassifying employees as independent contractors is a common wage theft technique to dodge regulations.
Wage theft in the North West:
The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters recently released an overview of the “underground construction economy.” It details cases of wage theft in the construction industry. Importantly, it reports that in Washington alone, $164 million was collected in 2012 for these crimes alone. In fact, labor brokers or “coyotes” act as middlemen for contractors to dodge responsibility for legal wages owed to workers. Without fair wages, hardworking families can’t get ahead. Similarly, these contractors get away without paying their fair share.
Underground labor makes it impossible for legitimate contractors to compete. To ensure hard-working families are able to make an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work, we need to fight against this predatory behavior.