A report published by Temple Law School this week detailed the pervasive problem of wage theft here in Pennsylvania and, specifically, Philadelphia. The executive summary details the grim facts for workers in the state in any given workweek:
- Almost 400,000 Pennsylvanians experience a minimum wage violation.
- Over 300,000 Pennsylvanians experience an overtime violation.
- Pennsylvania workers lose a total of $19 million to $32 million in wages.
In the Philadelphia metropolitan region alone, more than 100,000 workers can be expected to have a minimum wage or overtime violation each week with 75,000 employees working off-the-clock without pay from area businesses.
The statistics are extrapolated from a 2009 investigation of thousands of workers in low-wage industries in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago and then applied to Pennsylvania using Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data.
Here in Philadelphia, the occupations most likely to experience these problems are in the restaurant industry: waiters, bartenders, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers and food preparers. Other jobs seeing a significant problem were office clerks, retail salespersons, home health aides and cashiers. In the metropolitan region, the list of occupations where wage theft is experienced also includes individuals working in factory and packaging; general construction; building services and grounds workers; and drivers, parking lot attendants and car wash workers.
The report recommends Pennsylvania impose criminal penalties against employers, increase monetary penalties, create a wage lien law and impose other non-monetary penalties. It also suggests additional outreach and education, a confidential or anonymous process for complaints and internal adjudication of claims within the Department of Labor and Industry.