Retail Workers Vulnerable to Wage Violations

by David Weil

This is known as a make or break time of year for retailers. It’s a time to maximize revenues and profits by moving as much merchandise as possible off the shelves, out of the warehouses and into the hands of consumers. While advances in technology and logistics result in goods moving faster and faster through the stream of commerce, human capital continues to be its lifeblood.

Most people who staff sales floors, operate registers, manage inventory, work in warehouses, fill baskets for online consumers and even wrap presents are working for relatively low wages – sometimes the minimum wage. Many are full-time, permanent workers, but many more are hired just for the season.

From corporate executives to small business owners, retailers have come to rely on employing a relatively inexpensive workforce. And most businesses are doing the right thing – playing by the rules and paying their workers the wages to which they are legally entitled.

But economic forces, cost-cutting pressure from shareholders and competition mean that retail workers − whether they’re seasonal hires or old hands − are vulnerable to wage violations. Some employers inadvertently commit such violations, while others deliberately cheat their workers.

In fact, investigations conducted by the Wage and Hour Division last year found that thousands of workers in the retail industry were cheated out of millions of dollars. Specifically, in the 2015 fiscal year, we found more than $12.6 million in back wages for more than 14,500 workers in the industry. That’s almost $900 per worker, about twice the typical retail worker’s weekly earnings. For cashiers and stock clerks, that’s nearly three times what they earn in a week, a lot of money for a low-wage worker.

Read the full article from the US Department of Labor Blog