Over the long holiday weekend, I went to a family reunion… the first we’ve had in over two years. Of course, we shared lots of life updates, including my job here at VICPP. I mentioned that my primary work is connecting with people of faith and congregations (if you want more info on that, email me!), but another part of my focus is preventing wage theft. Without fail, every family member I spoke to said, “what’s that?”

Sometimes, we’re so engrossed in this work that we don’t pay attention to the fact that we’re using terms other people might not be familiar with! So I decided to put together a primer. Please do share this with your communities… you never know who might need the information.

What is wage theft?
Wage theft occurs any time an employer does not pay someone appropriately. Sometimes, that’s as blatant as not paying minimum wage or human trafficking. Sometimes, it’s paying an employee their regular rate, even for overtime work. It can also be classifying an employee as an independent contractor (cheating them out of benefits and not paying taxes), or failing to provide a final pay check.

How prevalent is wage theft?
About one in four low-income workers nationally has experienced wage theft. Those numbers go up in sectors like the construction and restaurant industries. It’s estimated that collectively, this adds up to $15 billion around the country every year.

How can I work to prevent wage theft?

  • Talk about classification and pay with your co-workers, family, and friends.
  • Be ready to tip in cash to make sure restaurant workers receive the full tip.
  • Make a commitment to hire ethical contractors and always pay fairly.
  • Learn more, and invite someone from VICPP to speak with your congregation or community group.

What can I do if I think I’m a victim of wage theft?
Check out wagetheftva.org and submit a complaint. We can walk with you through getting rightful treatment, and even connect you with a lawyer.

What Virginia laws protect workers?
We have a one-page overview of worker rights, as well as one that focuses on proper pay. Check them out, and find more resources at wagetheftva.org/resources!