Retail workers vulnerable to wage violations during holidays

Friday, December 16, 2016


The holiday season is known as a make-or-break time of year for retailers. It’s a time to maximize revenues and profits by moving as much merchandise as possible off the shelves, out of the warehouses and into the hands of consumers. While advances in technology and logistics result in goods moving faster and faster through the stream of commerce, human capital continues to be its lifeblood.

The Department of Labor (DOL) is sending a seasonal reminder to employers, from corporate executives to small business owners, to pay their workers the wages to which they are legally entitled. While many businesses do the right thing, economic forces, cost-cutting pressure from shareholders and competition mean that retail workers−whether they’re seasonal hires or old hands−are vulnerable to wage violations. Some employers inadvertently commit such violations, while others deliberately cheat their workers.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the DOL found more than $14.7 million in back wages for more than 14,600 workers in the industry. That’s over $1,000 per worker, or twice the typical retail worker’s weekly earnings. For cashiers, that’s nearly three times what they earn in a week−a lot of money for a minimum- or low-wage worker.

The DOL's Wage and Hour Division investigates complaints that are filed by workers and engages in strategic enforcement efforts to bring about compliance industrywide. Every year it also reaches out to workers to educate them about their rights, providing guides like its Holiday Season Employment Information.

If you have questions about wage and hour laws that are not answered in the DOL's holiday guide, contact the agency online or by calling 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).


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