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Baldwin Fights Against Wage Theft with Legislation That Ensures Workers Get the Pay They’ve Earned

Wage theft denies workers tens of billions of dollars in pay they have earned each year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined a bicameral group of colleagues in introducing the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act to put hard-earned wages back in workers’ pockets and crack down on employers who unfairly withhold wages from their employees.

“Hardworking Wisconsinites show up to their jobs, only to discover that they are not getting the full paycheck they have earned. It’s not right and we have to crack down on the employers who steal wages from working families,” said Senator Baldwin. “Our bill will help stop bad-faith employers denying Wisconsinites their hard-earned dollars and empower workers to get what they are owed.” 

Each year, wage theft denies workers tens of billions of dollars in pay they have earned as employers commit a variety of minimum wage, overtime, off-the-clock, tip, and meal-break violations. Wage theft violations are pervasive at many large corporations. Between 2017 and 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor recovered more than $3 billion in stolen wages on behalf of workers—representing just a small fraction of wages stolen nationwide. These illegal practices disproportionately hurt low-wage workers—amplifying poverty and inequality in America. As many as 35% of tipped workers, and 17% of low-wage workers generally, report being paid less than the prevailing local minimum wage in their state—denying workers $15 billion annually from minimum wage violations alone. And 46% of tipped workers in service industries say they are not compensated at the legally required “time-and-a-half” rate for overtime work.

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act would strengthen fundamental protections to help ensure workers receive the full compensation they have earned and crack down on corporations that subject workers to these abuses. Taking these steps will put money back in workers’ pockets and help ensure our economy works better for all Americans, not just the largest corporations and wealthiest few.

Specifically, the bill would help combat wage theft and improve wage recovery by:

  • Strengthening workers’ right to fair pay and improving employer accountability;
  • Increasing deterrence of and penalties for wage theft violations;
  • Strengthening recovery of workers’ stolen wages;
  • Expanding workers’ rights to their employment records.

The legislation is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

A one-pager on the legislation is available here

Full text of the legislation is available here.