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

State of Working Ohio 2019: Realities and Remedies

In many ways, Americans have been given a gift for the last decade – an economic expansion unprecedented in its length. And many of the indicators of the expansion are quite strong: Unemployment levels are very low, particularly for those with college degrees. The nation continues to add jobs each month, though Ohio cannot consistently say the same. And the economy is growing each quarter.

But by other measures, we are far behind previous economic peaks. At this point in the business cycle, labor market participation (the share of those either working or seeking work) should be higher than ever – it is instead lower than in all but one of the last 40 years. After so many years of growth, median wages should be at an all-time high – they are instead lower than they were in 1979, when workers were much less educated and our economy was much less productive. And at this point in the cycle, our elected officials should have used the boom years to be ready for the inevitable bust, by investing in essentials that benefit us all long term. Instead, nationally and in Ohio, policymakers have neglected critical needs, leaving us less equipped to face any looming downturn.

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.

A new way forward: 10 ways to support Ohio’s working people

State policy can also rig the system against workers. The Ohio legislature has barred local governments from improving working conditions, banned local hire ordinances that help set aside work for local residents, and passed tax cuts that favor the wealthiest Ohioans at the expense of our roads, schools and health care. But there are solutions. We can strengthen Ohio’s working people and create an economy that works for everyone by helping workers to speak up together, raising wages, and investing in communities instead of corporations.

State and federal policy makers can make sure all Ohio’s working people – not just the top 1 percent – can enjoy a decent life free from economic insecurity. Although this is by no means a definitive list[5], this report offers a new path forward with practical policy solutions that can be implemented today.

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.