Your employer is supposed to pay you, not use your earnings as a piggy bank. Imagine the surprise and boiling anger you might feel if you found out your boss was shortchanging you — not just shortchanging you, but actively and deceptively stealing from you, paycheck after paycheck. This is called wage theft, and it’s much more common than you might realize. In fact, studies have shown as much as $3 billion per year is pilfered from workers’ checks.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s typically the checks of those who can least afford it: workers in low-wage, low-skill industries. But it also occurs in the highest echelons of American industry. Although companies, such as Walmart and McDonald’s, might be easy targets for protests, even companies, such as Apple, Google, and Adobe, have been caught systematically finding ways to scrape money away from their employees.
How do they do it? There are numerous means and methods — some more obvious than others. And you, no matter your industry or role, might have had your wages stolen or suppressed at some point in your career. It might have happened right under your nose or even with your consent. You might have just been too naive to recognize what was happening. Here are 13 methods employers use to engage in wage theft or suppression.
1. Hiring you as an unpaid intern
Internships have become extremely common in the United States. The issue, however, is internships are supposed to abide by certain rules, but often interns end up becoming unpaid laborers. For example, internships are, by law, supposed to be beneficial to the intern, and the employer is not supposed to gain immediate advantage from the intern’s production.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but interns commonly end up doing grunt work. For that, you’re supposed to be paid at least minimum wage. This has led to a rash of lawsuits in recent years, many of which were in the entertainment industry, involving Fox, NBC, Viacom, and Hearst.
Next: Interns aren’t the only type of misclassification used to an employers’ advantage.