Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco have been among the major U.S. cities to pass minimum wage increases, culling national attention and some criticism. While these hikes have generally been paced to occur over a few years, with some raising the minimum wage to as much as $15 by 2020, criticism from employers has generally been that these hikes will increase labor costs, forcing firings or even the shutdown of some entities.
In all of this debate, however, a greater issue regarding enforcement has also emerged. Specifically, there are many businesses that currently do not abide by minimum wage laws. This has led to many workers getting cheated out of the wages to which they are entitled.
Now, the bigger concern is that increasing minimum wage rates will only end up increasing the number of businesses that violate minimum wage laws.
The Scope of the Problem
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 1.7 million workers were illegally paid less than the federal minimum wage (which is $7.25) last year. About 2 out of every 3 of these workers were women.
The Department of Labor has also estimated that, when it comes to minimum wage violations in California and New York alone, roughly 560,000 violations occur every week. This translates to about $33 million in lost wages for workers in those states.
Current Enforcement Efforts and Problems
The U.S. Labor Department is the federal authority that currently investigates minimum wage violations and, when such violations have occurred, pursues prosecution against the offending businesses/employers. While the Labor Department has made remarkable strides in holding noncompliant employers accountable – recovering around $270 million for about 270,000 employees (over the last federal fiscal year), the agency only has about 1,000 investigators to cover roughly 7.3 million U.S. employers.
This has created a large enforcement gap that may continue to grow as more municipalities move towards increasing their local minimum wage statutes.
Commenting on this problem, Labor Department Administrator David Weil has stated:
A lot of states are facing [this] challenge now…It is very important to pass those minimum wage increases … Then, how do we make sure workers really receive them?
While possible enforcement solutions continue to be evaluated, employees should be aware that they can file a civil lawsuit against their employer if they have been cheated out of earnings because an employer has failed to pay them minimum wage (or because an employer has violated any wage and hour laws).
Contact the Los Angeles Employment Lawyers at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP
If your employer cheated you out of the income you have earned, or has otherwise violated any of your rights as an employee, contact the experienced Los Angeles employment lawyers at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP for help and superior representation.
To find out more about how we can help you, contact us today to set up a free initial consult with one of our lawyers. Call (310) 575-2550 or email us using the contact form on this page.