Just Pay: Improving Wage and Hour Enforcement at the United States Department of Labor

Source: by the National Employment Law Project for the Just Pay Working Group, April 2010

Too many workers in the United States are not paid for their work, earning below the minimum wage in industries that are at the heart of our economy. Employers in retail, janitorial, hospitality, construction, home care, agriculture and trucking offer subpar wages and then do not pay for overtime hours worked. A national survey of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago found that 26 percent of workers were paid less than the minimum wage, and an astonishing 75 percent were not paid overtime pay in the previous week.

Workers are reluctant to complain for fear of losing their jobs, a dire result in today’s tight labor market. And, the U.S. Department of Labor, the federal agency charged with ensuring fair pay and accepting worker complaints, recently was described as ineffective in a series of Government Accountability Offce (GAO) reports chronicling the agency’s inaction in the years leading up to the current administration. This lack of a public enforcement actor in the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has perpetuated workplace lawlessness and has hurt law-abiding businesses, workers and our economy.

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