A controversial study of employment practices in the New York City region and other large urban centers has found that employers routinely stiff low-paid workers, breaking wage-and-hour laws and illegally thwarting union organizing efforts.
The report, titled Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities, looked at low-wage working conditions in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. According to the report:
- 76% of workers had worked overtime the previous week and not been paid time and a half for it.
- 26% of workers were paid below minimum wage.
- 69% of workers who were entitled to meal breaks didn’t receive them at all, had their breaks shortened or had their breaks interrupted by employers.
- 30% of tipped workers were not paid the tipped-worker minimum wage.
- 12% claimed employers or supervisors stole tips.
- One out of five workers had either complained to a boss or attempted to form a union in the past year. Of those, 43% claimed they experienced some sort of retaliation, including having their pay cut, being fired and having supervisors threaten to call immigration officials.
The report noted that women and foreign-born workers were far more likely to experience employer violations.
Critics of the report accuse the organizations that conducted the study of having an anti-employer bias. It was published by the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said she was “troubled” by the report. Earlier this year, Solis announced the Department of Labor planned to hire 250 more investigators to beef up enforcement.