Interfaith Worker Justice
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Wage Theft

What it is and what you can do about it.

What is Wage Theft?

Wage Theft is the illegal underpayment or non-payment of workers' wages. It affects millions of workers each year, often forcing them to choose between paying the rent or putting food on the table. Wage Theft is all around us. It robs from the government's tax coffers, resulting in cutbacks of vital services. Wage Theft puts ethical employers at a competitive disadvantage.

What are some examples of Wage Theft in the workplace?

Wage Theft includes violations of minimum wage laws; not paying time and a half overtime pay; forcing workers to work off the clock; workers not receiving their final paychecks; misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime (as well as employers' share of FICA tax); and not paying workers at all.


What can I do?

  1. Organize a delegation of religious leaders and workers to meet with your representative and senators. Ask them to support anti-wage theft legislation.
  2. Support state and local campaigns against wage theft
  3. Hold an educational forum for your congregation or student group on Wage Theft. Invite workers, worker center leaders, and IWJ leaders to speak.
  4. Make sure that all workers you hire are paid all of their earned wages, and all businesses you patronize pay their workers fairly and legally.
  5. To obtain more resources on Wage Theft and to keep yourself updated on the Wage Theft campaign, check out our website: or go to

IWJ Materials on Wage Theft

Wage Theft Resources from IWJ
Including Thou Shalt Not Steal - A Toolkit on Wage Theft (revised 2010)

IWJ's newletter, Faith Works
Read about the latest campaigns and victories

Wage Theft in America
A new book from IWJ director Kim Bobo. See the book website for more information.

Is the Department of Labor Effectively Enforcing Our Wage and Hour Laws?
Testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee, by Kim Bobo, Executive Director, July 15, 2008.

Hearing on Labor Law Enforcement in Post-Katrina New Orleans
Testimony by IWJ Public Policy Director Ted Smukler before the House Domestic Policy subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, June 26, 2007.

Further Reading and Other Resources

Is the Department of Labor Effectively Enforcing Our Wage and Hours Laws?
Hearing of the House Committee on Education and Labor, at which the following two GAO reports were discussed. Statements from the Dept. of Labor, IWJ, and the GAO, July 15, 2008.

Fair Labor Standards Act: Better Use of Available Resources and Consistent Reporting Could Improve Compliance
A report from the Government Accountability Office on problems with enforcement of labor law in the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, July 15, 2008.

Department of Labor: Case Studies from Ongoing Work Show Examples in Which Wage and Hour Division Did Not Adequately Pursue Labor Violations
A report from the Government Accountability Office, July 15, 2008.

Hearing on Adequacy of Labor Law Enforcement in New Orleans
Overview of hearing and links to Chairman Kucinich's opening statement and witness testimonies, June 25, 2007.

Film: Made In L.A.

Made in L.A. is an Emmy award-winning documentary (bilingual English-Spanish) that follows the three-year odyssey of three Latina immigrants working in garment factories as they fight for basic labor protections while finding their way in the U.S.  This intimate, human story puts a face on the immigrant experience, low-wage work, and workers' rights, and it draws parallels between today's immigrants and those whose families came to the U.S. generations ago.