Wage Theft Facts

Wage theft is when employers do not pay workers according to the law.

Examples of wage theft: Not paying at all, paying below minimum wage, not paying overtime, not allowing workers to take meal and rest breaks, not paying for required sick leave or taking workers’ tips, paying employees with invalid checks with insufficient funds, breaking promises to pay at a later date or forcing employees to record fewer hours than actually worked.

Los Angeles is the wage theft capital of the U.S.:

Without Enforcement, There is no Minimum Wage

While Los Angeles low-wage workers alone lose $1.4 billion to wage theft every year, workers in Chicago and New York are close behind. Collectively, the three cities account for $3 billion in wage theft each year.

At least 650,000 low-wage workers in Los Angeles lose $26.20 million in wage theft each week. The average amount of wages stolen is $40 weekly, representing 12.5% of a worker’s total income. Workers already making under $20,000 are shorted an average of $2,070 annually, although many Wage Justice Center cases include wage theft amounts that are much larger.

The vast majority of wage theft violations in Los Angeles – nearly 55% – are due to failure to pay minimum wage.

Of workers who report wage theft or try to unionize, 43% experience some form of retaliation, ranging from outright firing to reduction of hours or verbal abuse.

The UCLA Labor Center reviewed wage claim data from 2008-2011 and found the majority of companies – 83% – ruled against by the labor commissioner never paid back any wages.

Other research about wage theft:

UCLA Labor Center’s Report, Hollow Victories: The Crisis in Collecting Unpaid Wages for California Workers

Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers:  Violations of Employment and Labor Laws In America’s Cities

Winning Wage Theft: An Advocate’s Guide to State and City Policies to Fight Wage Theft


Do you have questions about minimum wage or your rights as a worker? Have you experienced wage theft or need help filing a claim?

At this time, the Wage Justice Center does not file wage theft claims on behalf of workers; however, if you’re a victim of wage theft and wish to make a claim, you can seek help from KIWA or Bet Tzedek:

Contact KIWA’s Worker Empowerment Clinic: Scarlett De Leon (English, Spanish) at 213.738.9050 ext 3# scarlett@kiwa.org; Kaye Kim (Korean) at 213.738.9050 ext 1#, kwiran@kiwa.org

Bet Tzedek also hosts a walk-in clinic twice a month:  First and Third Wednesday of every month, from 5:30-7pm at their main office – 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, 13th Floor, LA, CA 90010. Appointments are not needed, but can be scheduled by calling: 323.939.0506.

Wage Justice Center is only accepting new cases for day laborers or construction workers who qualify for Mechanic’s Liens.  For more information, please visit our page about our day laborer project and call our hotline:  213.294.2622.

Workers can also file claims directly:



Download this bilingual Know Your Rights brochure; thanks to our friends at National Day Laborer Organizing Network for creating this resource. You need to know your rights at the workplace, at home and everywhere. Retaliation happens to 43% of workers who report wage theft or try to form a union, according to the UCLA Labor Center.

If your workplace is experiencing a raid or you’re worried about a raid, please click here to learn more from our friends at Legal Aid At Work.