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Report: Wage Theft is Harming Workers and the Economy


Report: Wage Theft is Harming Workers and the Economy

Community Legal Services calls for action to protect Pennsylvanians.

PHILADELPHIA – Today, a report detailing Pennsylvania’s wage theft epidemic was released by the Social Justice Lawyering Clinic at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law. In response to the report, Community Legal Services (CLS) is calling on the City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania to take action to protect workers and the economy.

This report, based on the Sheller Center’s study of Pennsylvania employment practices, unmasks a shocking, but exceedingly common problem facing low-wage workers in Pennsylvania. Wage theft, or the illegal non-payment or under payment of wages, is a pervasive problem hurting hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers across the state each week.

According to the report, it is estimated that in any given work week:

  • Almost 400,000 Pennsylvanians experience a minimum wage violation
  • Pennsylvania workers lose a total of $19 million to $32 million in stolen wages
  • Over 300,000 Pennsylvanians experience an overtime violation

In response to the report’s findings, CLS is calling for solutions to help Pennsylvania workers and the economy. CLS is advocating for the passage of Pennsylvania Senator Tartaglione’s bills, SB 195, 198, and 199, and Representative Patty Kim’s bill, HB 250, all of which contain anti-wage theft measures. CLS is also asking Philadelphia City Council to tackle this major issue to protect workers and the economy.

“The current law is inadequate,” said Community Legal Services attorney Michael Hollander. “We need to increase penalties against employers who are skirting the law at workers’ expense.”

As the Sheller Center’s study shows, wage theft not only hurts workers, but it is also harmful for the state and its residents. The state economy suffers when employers steal from low-wage Pennsylvania workers because this money would otherwise be spent in the local economy. The report estimates that such stolen wages deprive the state of tens of millions of dollars of valuable tax revenue each year. Wage theft also penalizes law-abiding businesses who are at a competitive disadvantage compared to employers that break the law.

Added Community Legal Services attorney Nadia Hewka, “Pennsylvania depends on tax revenue to fund schools and other vital services. If workers aren’t getting paid, we are all getting short changed.”

The report can be found online at