“Low-wage workers are robbed far more often than banks, gas stations and convenience stores combined — and the perpetrators are their own employers.”

– Caroline Fairchild, Huffington Post

A new report from Economic Policy Institute reveals the alarming enormity and frequency of wage theft in America.  “The country suffers an epidemic of wage theft, as large numbers of employers violate minimum-wage, overtime, and other wage and hour laws with virtual impunity,” University of Oregon economist Gordon Lafer wrote in the report. Especially hard-hit are restaurant workers. The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour — although employers are legally required to pay tipped workers at least minimum wage when tips do not meet the hourly full minimum wage, enforcement is weak and disorganized.  According to the study: In 2008, the federal government employed only one workplace inspector for every 141,000 workers. That meant the average employer had just a 0.001 percent chance of being investigated in a given year. And low-wage workers most likely cannot pay a lawyer to sue their employer for the wages that are rightfully theirs, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey said in an interview with The Huffington Post. A fast-food worker shorted, say, $300 isn’t going to find a lawyer who thinks such a small amount of wages is worth his or her time. “Employers can be pretty certain they can get away with it,” Eisenbrey said.

Bringing some faces to the wage theft epidemic, Al-Jazeera’s “Fault Lines” caught up with some of ROC’s members and other labor activists in their special segment, “Stolen Wages,” below.

If you’ve experienced wage theft, share your story. We are encouraging restaurant workers to speak up for living wages and fair labor standards. Corporations and management cannot continue to get away with stealing wages – get involved at LivingOffTips.com!

Read the rest of Huffington Post’s coverage of the report here.