The human cost of wage theft in Massachusetts

Source: Brian Sparks, Muck Rock, May 23, 2016

Imagine standing in line at a coffee shop. It’s a hot, humid Boston day and you would like nothing more than a refreshing iced mocha. But there’s been a mistake, and the barista hands you not an iced mocha but a hot, hazelnut, half-caff, sugar-free latte with sprinkles.

It’s even got your name written on the cup.

How did they get hot, hazelnut, half-caff, sugar-free latte with sprinkles from your order of iced mocha? No matter. You inform the barista of the mistake, the proper iced mocha is made, and off you go to enjoy the sunshine.

What you might not know is that the manager has observed this, and has told the barista that the retail cost of the mistaken coffee order must come from the tip jar.

Called “paying for mistakes,” this is one of many ways employers wrongfully steal from their workers in Boston. While infuriating, it’s hardly the most costly form of wage theft – much more damaging to this barista’s income, and more common in the food service industry, are unpaid training shifts, unpaid overtime, and denial of meal breaks.

Over the last several years, nearly one in five wage theft complaints from Boston workers to the Attorney General’s Office involved restaurants, recently released documents indicate. The documents cover complaints made after 2012, when the US Department of Labor found that dozens of Boston-area restaurants practiced wage owed their workers nearly $1.3 million, or roughly $2,600 to each worker…..