Wage Theft Fact Sheet

“Wage theft happens so often that every time I go out on the job, I wonder if I am even going to get paid.” – Nephi Chynoweth, Austin construction worker

What is wage theft?

  • Wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay their workers their promised wages or don’t pay them at all.
  • It also includes workers paid less than the legal minimum wage or workers who are being cheated out of overtime pay.
  • Wage theft undercuts responsible businesses and hurts working families by forcing them to face unexpected hardships.

How big a problem is wage theft?

  • Wage theft is all around us. Millions of workers are robbed each year of a total estimated $35 billion, often forcing them to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table.
  • One in five construction workers in Texas has suffered wage theft. (1)
  • Nationally, 50% of contingent laborers have experienced wage theft. (2)

Who does wage theft affect?

  • Wage theft cheats Texas families out of hard-earned income and hurts responsible businesses who do pay their workers according to the law.
  • Responsible business can’t compete with companies who don’t pay their workers.
  • Half of Texas construction workers in a recent survey indicated that they were unable to meet their families’ basic needs. (3)
  • Taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab when unpaid workers fall back on public safety nets.
  • Employers who don’t pay their workers also don’t pay taxes, forcing cutbacks of vital services.

What does the Texas Wage Theft Act do?

  • The act empowers law enforcement across Texas to investigate wage theft under the Texas Penal Code section 31.04.
  • It closes a loophole in the law that allowed employers to get off the hook by partially paying their workers.
  • It clarifies that criminal penalties can apply in cases of non-payment of wages.
  • Criminal Theft of Service can help stop wage theft. Austin Police Department (APD) has adopted a policy of enforcing criminal theft of service in cases of wage theft.

How do we implement the law?

  • Effective enforcement of wage theft cases under Theft of Service requires collaboration between law enforcement and the court systems to prosecute cases.
  • Provide additional training for detectives and officers as well as court officials on the changes to the Texas Penal Code.
  • Partner with other Texas cities to help them implement the law.





(1) Amy Price et. al., Build a Better Texas: Construction Working Conditions in the Lone Star State, The University of Texas at Austin [Division of Diversity and Community Engagement] and Workers Defense Project, January 2013.

(2) Abel Valenzuela et. al., On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States, UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, 2006.

(3) Price, Build a Better Texas.

3 thoughts on “Wage Theft Fact Sheet

  • Vince

    I just recently resigned my construction position as a class 3 skilled laborer because I have been cheated out of hourly overtime pay also travel pay daily for driving a company truck to each job daily not being paid for but required me to follow Dot log book pre trip and post trip i travel each day from my home hauling my equipment anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours one way to my jobsite and then working anywhere from 10 to 12 hour shifts somedays 22 hours in a day was told no overtime pay until u reach 40 hours in a week many days i logged over 200 miles to and from jobs then get home for 1 hour and having to return to another job i have been left on job sites with no assistant from supervisor s, flaggers etc I have almost been hit by autos performing my job alone day and night also have has my dentures broke while on job as well as my head split open because of debris from my job flying up and hitting me while in job alone I have requested more than several times for contract books from both the unions I worked for and haven’t been provided any yet this is over 6 months now I have left message after message for my union rep and no response also took my complaints to boss and president of company and have not received any satisfaction at all I even wrote letters and nothing can anyone justify this treatment so I intern resigned my position and took a lesser paying job because of this and I want no parts of a union I couldn’t even keep my bills paid last year from my union job I lost 20k in wages compared to prior year of work I had no extra money to even buy food most of the time my girlfriend had to pay most of the bills and I’m still in debt worse part about it all is I never missed a day of work gave up all my personal time to please my company and this is what I got a slap in the face all way around

  • James

    I constantly get cheated out of pay every day for the last 12 years. I have even turned in my paystubs to the union reps and its never been fixed it happens all the time and nothing is done about it. They call it market recovery. Many people i know have made it known to top representatives at local 423 and they never do anything about it. My whole company has been cheated out of almost 3 dollars an hour. We only make 28 dollars and its suppose obe 31. Someone is pocketing the money and i would say its whoever is in charge of the union. They keep saying, oh its because they have an out dated contract with us… ook why dont you fix it? We need new representation thats the issue… and if i put my name on here ill just get blackballed.

  • William Scott

    Employers who systematically commit wage theft to pay thier debt should be singled out and that made public so employees can avoid the offending party. I researched my employer before u went to work there. I got two checks then was never paid sgain. These companies should be baned from doing business.

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