August 27, 2014

Stolen Wages

Print More

For many Washington workers hoping to recover a few thousand dollars or less in wages, their best alternative is often to file a complaint with the Department of Labor & Industries. But justice is often neither swift nor certain. Labor & Industries has just 16 investigators to pursue up to 4,000 cases per year. The complaints include alleged minimum wage violations and outright refusal to pay for work done.

Read our related article, “Washington, Seattle Struggle to Help Workers Collect Millions in Stolen Wages

Millions of dollars at stake

Since 2009, Labor & Industries has collected more than $11.6 million in unpaid wages for workers in Washington. Yet that’s only a little more than half the total wages the state has declared workers are owed: Nearly $10 million in unpaid wages remain uncollected, even as the average wait for a worker to recover the pay due has shortened to just over the state-mandated 60 days.

Hover over each bar to see how major industries in Washington state measure up in total upaid wages and how much the state has collected.

Complaints

Worker claims against employers range from just a few dollars to six figures and higher. InvestigateWest reviewed a database of nearly 20,000 such complaints filed with Labor & Industries since 2009 that were provided by the state to Columbia Legal Services. In 10,762 cases — just over half — the state concluded that employers were indeed owed some or all of the wages they claimed had been withheld. Even then, collecting on wages owed can be difficult: in more than one-quarter of cases, no money was recovered, records indicate.

See selected examples below; and scroll down farther for the complete list.

Note: These complaints were provided by the agency and have not been independently verified by InvestigateWest.

 

  • Minimum Wage Violations
  • Unpaid Hours Worked
  • Unpaid Overtime
  • Unpaid Agreed Wages
  • Unauthorized Deductions

 

Minimum wage violations

Getting shorted on pay is common in many low-paying jobs. A 2009 report by the National Employment Law Project found more than one-quarter of low-wage workers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles had been paid less than minimum wage.

Trans Ocean Seafoods

Mount Vernon, WA

Amount claimed: $4,062
Amount assessed: $2,952
Amount collected: $2,952

Wok Teriyaki

Gig Harbor, WA

Amount claimed: $0
Amount assessed: $11,973
Amount collected: $0

Sasquatch Glass

Seattle, WA

Amount claimed: $7,770
Amount assessed: $5,578
Amount collected: $3,347

Econolodge

Federal Way, WA

Amount claimed: $12,901
Amount assessed: $12,901
Amount collected: $5,000

Unpaid hours worked

Another way employers can violate state law is by requiring employees to work off the clock, denying meal breaks, or not paying for all hours worked. It’s the most common violation cited in the complaints.

Seattle University

Seattle, WA

Amount claimed: $200,000
Amount assessed: $74,800
Amount collected: $16,967

Morning Glory Landscaping

Auburn, WA

Amount claimed: $2,992
Amount assessed: $3,123
Amount collected: $0

Green Tech Enterprises

Mount Vernon, WA

Amount claimed: $1,080
Amount assessed: $1,080
Amount collected: $0

Cooper George Senior Living

Spokane, WA

Amount claimed: $10,828
Amount assessed: $7,319
Amount collected: $7,319

Unpaid Overtime

According to the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, most hourly workers must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a seven-day workweek, at a rate at least 1.5 times the regular hourly rate. More than one-fifth of complaints allege overtime violations.

7-Eleven

Lakewood, WA

Amount claimed: $3,468
Amount assessed: $3,000
Amount collected: $3,000

Guadalupana Bakery

Kent, WA

Amount claimed: $29,135
Amount assessed: $29,135
Amount collected: $12,000

NAPA Spokane

Covington, WA

Amount claimed: $15,000
Amount assessed: $5,753
Amount collected: $5,753

Subway

Seattle, WA

Amount claimed: $355
Amount assessed: $496
Amount collected: $359

All complaints

Below is a table of more than 10,000 complaints closed by Labor & Industries from 2009 to 2014 in which an employer was told to pay wages to an employee. The data is published as it was received by InvestigateWest. Use the search box to filter the table or sort by clicking “Assessed” and “Collected.”

Icons from The Noun Project by Pavel Pavlov, Ben Rex Furneaux, hunotika, and Bradley Wilton.

Comments are closed.