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Wage Theft in Low-Wage Industries: Mixed Methods Research in Silicon Valley

TitleWage Theft in Low-Wage Industries: Mixed Methods Research in Silicon Valley
Publication TypeWorking Paper
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsTayag, M, Taube, RS, Mondina, F, Nasol, K, Kinslow, II, A, Peterson, F
PublisherCenter for Integrated Facility Engineering
Place PublishedStanford, CA
KeywordsEducation, Labor, Public Policy, Public Works, Wage Theft

Wage theft harms workers and their families directly, but also diminishes the collective
bargaining power of workers by depressing hourly wages in the impacted industries and
occupations. This has a ripple effect on the State’s economy, since it forces workers to rely on
increasingly strained public assistance programs, which ultimately affects taxpayers.
The theft of workers’ earned wages is an epidemic that costs workers billions of dollars
across various industries. In Santa Clara County alone, our analysis of federal, state, and local
datasets found a total of 25,856 reported wage theft cases across industries. These cases affected
32,826 employees and amounted to $128,871,256 in total wage theft that is still unpaid—or an
average of $3,926 per employee.

This report demonstrates that wage theft remains rampant in Santa Clara County due to
insufficient government enforcement. Despite the progress that the state and local governments
have made to combat the problem, workers continue to face wage theft in huge numbers. Even
those who successfully file claims against their employers, enduring legal proceedings that can
take months or years, largely fail to collect the back wages they are awarded. The crisis of wage
theft has only worsened in the age of COVID-19, which has also exacerbated labor trafficking,
health and safety violations, job losses, pay decreases, and retaliation against workers.
In this report, the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition recommends state and local
policies to (1) protect worker health and safety amid the pandemic, (2) prevent wage theft and
strengthen enforcement, and (3) increase worker power and employer accountability.

Citation Key3076