Labor officials met over the weekend in one of five nationwide hearings to discuss the growing problem of wage theft. Wage theft takes a few forms, but each has serious consequences for working Kansans.
Last week we shed some light on the practice of misclassification, which is one form of wage theft. Employees who are illegally misclassified as independent contractors are denied key benefits of employees, namely benefits that are part of an employee’s compensation package — unemployment insurance for when they are laid off and workers compensation coverage for when they are injured at an unsafe workplace. Other forms of wage theft include denial of vacation time and violations of minimum wage and overtime laws. According to the Wichita Eagle,
[Kansas Secretary of Labor Jim Garner] said he’s seen a growing number of employers who illegally treat workers as independent contractors. The classification means the workers are denied employment benefits when they lose their jobs, and they don’t qualify for worker compensation when they’re injured on the job.
Because no taxes are withheld under such an arrangement, the practice also is unfair to businesses that play by the rules, Garner said.
And the economic decline has not made the situation any better for working Kansans…
Billions of dollars are being stolen each and every year from millions of American workers and the problem is only compounded, officials say, by this economic recession.
Sulman Arias, the director of the national wage theft campaign, explained that workers are afraid of losing their jobs, choosing not to require their employers comply with legal protections for workers.
“It’s the first threat an employer would use. They’ll say, ‘Hey, I can find someone else. In this economy, there are people lining up in the employment line, so if you don’t like it this way, I can find someone else.’ It’s become sort of like a form of business plan. ‘Where do I cut? Employees are disposable,’ and if they can do it, they will do it.”
To learn more about your rights in regards to wages and pay at the workplace, visit the Kansas Department of Labor’s Frequently Asked Questions on Wage and Pay Requirements.