“This holiday season, don’t let the Grinch get away with stealing your wages. Report him to state authorities.”
That’s the message that the Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft has for the many temporary workers that retailers turn to for help during the holiday shopping season.
The warning comes amid new analysis by the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a member of the coalition, showing that among all industries the retail sector gave rise to the second highest number of wage claims filed recently with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).
“Unfortunately, too many retailers renege on paying workers the wages they’ve earned, refuse to pay overtime or steal wages in other ways,” said OCPP policy analyst Janet Bauer. “It’s important that workers whose wages have been stolen know that BOLI may be able to help them.”
From July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, the bureau received 291 wage claims totaling about $773,000 from workers BOLI classified as working in retail, according to OCPP’s analysis of BOLI data. “Retail trade,” as defined by the bureau, gave rise to a quarter (24.9 percent) of all wage claims submitted to BOLI during the period.
Bauer cautioned that the claims against retailers filed with BOLI likely represent a fraction of the instances of wage theft.
“Workers whose wages have been stolen may not know that state authorities can help them or may fear reprisal from their employer,” Bauer said.
Of the claims against retailers that BOLI was able to investigate, the bureau found that employers owed about $340,000, OCPP’s analysis showed. And of that amount, workers recovered about $184,000.
Only the “services” industry topped the number of claims lodged against retailers. Over the course of the same 12-month period, workers in the services sector filed 365 claims totaling nearly $1 million, according to OCPP.
Services, as defined by BOLI, encompasses a broad range of business activities, including auto repair, building cleaning, health services and temporary staffing.
Workers can get information about filing a wage claim with BOLI at http://www.boli.state.or.us/ or by calling 971-673-0761.
The Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft, comprised of advocacy, labor and faith groups, seeks the enactment of legislation to deter employers from stealing wages and to provide more tools for workers to recover unpaid wages. More information about the coalition can be found at http://www.facebook.com/ProtectOregonWorkers?sk=info.