Wage Theft

Wage theft, the practice of employers failing to pay workers the full wages to which they are legally entitled, is a widespread and deep-rooted problem that directly harms millions of U.S. workers each year. Employers refusing to pay promised wages, paying less than legally mandated minimums, failing to pay for all hours worked, or not paying overtime premiums deprives working people of billions of dollars annually. It also leaves hundreds of thousands of affected workers and their families in poverty. Wage theft does not just harm the workers and families who directly suffer exploitation; it also weakens the bargaining power of workers more broadly by putting downward pressure on hourly wages in affected industries and occupations. For many low-income families who suffer wage theft, the resulting loss of income forces them to rely more heavily on public assistance programs, unduly straining safety net programs and hamstringing efforts to reduce poverty.

Publications

Testimony on HB 494 before the OH House GAO Committee

Testimony by Hannah Halbert in opposition to HB 494, which would shield corporate franchise owners from bearing joint responsibility with their franchisees, even when those corporate owners discourage or prevent those franchisees from complying with minimum wage, overtime, health and safety, and other laws designed to protect workers.

States with joint-employer shield laws are protecting wealthy corporate franchisers at the expense of franchisees and workers

As of 2018, at least 18 states have enacted joint-employer shield laws specifically designed to protect one very wealthy special interest group: corporate franchisers. Corporate franchisers are the big companies—like McDonalds, or Marriott, or Carl’s Junior—that use the franchise business model, in which oftentimes small-business owners (the franchisees) pay for the rights to use the company’s trademarks, services, and products. These state joint-employer laws are intended to shield the corporate owners of the franchise from bearing joint responsibility with their franchisees for complying with minimum wage, overtime, health and safety, and other laws applicable to the employees who work at the franchisee’s stores. In simple terms, the joint-employer shield laws preclude applying the joint-employer legal doctrine to hold franchisers jointly responsible for violations of employee rights.

Lessons from the Waterfront: Economic Development Projects Must Do More to Lessen DC’s Worsening Income Inequality

The District of Columbia can use its economic development efforts to stem the tide of the city’s rising income inequality, but it is failing to do so. Instead, the District’s economic development efforts—including the enormous Wharf project—often support creation of low-wage jobs with minimal benefits, a lost opportunity to reduce inequities. By not including requirements to create high-quality jobs, the District encourages developers to compete for projects and profits by aggressively cutting labor costs—at the expense of workers’ ability to live in the District and support their families.