A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Wage Theft Study in New Jersey

In an article posted by The Huffington Post earlier this month, columnist Afton Branche writes about wage theft and other abuse which day laborers endure far too often at the hands of unscrupulous employers.  The article was inspired by the release this month of a study prepared by the Immigrants’ Rights/International Human Rights Clinic at the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice in Newark.

Titled All Work and No Pay: Day Laborers, Wage Theft, and Workplace Justice in New Jersey, the study’s findings are based on interviews with day laborers found at pick-up lots across the state of New Jersey.  The study points out that wage theft is a problem in several industries in America, but that learning what can be done to end wage theft for any group will assist others in finding justice as well.  A huge problem revealed by the worker surveys is that when workers are victims of wage theft, they usually fail to file a complaint to either the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) or in small claims court.  The report states:

“When we asked the remaining workers why they had not filed claims with either the NJDOL or
in court, more than half the responses were that they did not know that they could, did not know
how to do so, or were afraid to file a complaint. Many said that it simply was not worth the
trouble to complain.”

It is no surprise, then, that the surveys also showed that wage theft was less prevalent in communities with local organizations to assist workers in wage disputes.  The report recommends that state and community organizations work together to fight the problem through education, documentation, and investigation of violations.  Several other suggested solutions conclude the report, with the primary goal of the report being to stimulate meaningful discussion among community leaders and legislators about the topic.

Studies such as this one and the Building Austin, Building Injustice study we wrote about last fall may indeed help raise awareness of the problem of wage theft and be an important step in eradicating it.


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