California Domestic Workers Coalition

Lil Kalish

Wage theft is common in low-wage industries in California. Tens of thousands of workers — in restaurants, nail salons, warehouses, farms, car washes and other industries – lose out on millions of dollars in stolen wages each year.

Wage theft happens when employers deliberately pay workers below the minimum wage, deny them meal or rest breaks, fail to pay overtime premiums, or engage in other practices to cheat them out of pay.  

Last year more than 19,000 workers filed claims with the state alleging wage theft totaling more than $338 million. It takes the state an average of 505 days to decide these individual wage claims, according to Labor Commissioner data, so workers can wait years to be paid. Besides this, many workers — especially immigrants, persons of color or women — find speaking out about wage theft intimidating and risky.

So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation? Some advocates and community organizers shared their best practices and advice.