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Wage Theft In The U.S. In Millions
Updated June 28, 2017 6:22 AM | Filed under: Business
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(UNDATED) - Retailers stole more than $15 billion from employers, while shoplifters stole about $14.5 billion from retailers, according to a new report.

However, efforts in Congress to curb wage theft have stalled, says Amy Traub, associate director of policy and research for Demos, a national progressive policy organization.

Retail employers are stealing as much from their employees as shoplifters steal from their stores, according to the new report.

The progressive policy group Demos compared minimum wage theft data from the Economic Policy Institute with shoplifting data from the Global Retail Theft Barometer. Between 2013 and 2015, it found employers underpaid or otherwise skimped on wages worth $15 billion each year.

Shoplifters stole $14.7 billion in merchandise each of those years.

"A retailer that's stealing millions of dollars in wages from its employees often face a lower risk of punishment and really a lighter penalty than a shoplifter who nabs a pair of shoes off the shelves of a store," Traub says.

The highest civil federal penalty for wage theft violators is repaying the stolen wages and an equal amount in damages. The penalty for repeat wage theft offenders isn't much higher, with a maximum of $1,100 dollars. The report notes shoplifters can face felony charges.

Last year, a bill was introduced to Congress to tighten wage theft laws. The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act would compensate wage victims with three times their stolen wages, increase civil fines for repeat offenders and make it easier for employees to act on wage theft. However, Traub notes the bill has stalled completely.

"This seems like it really should be a bipartisan issue," she added. "We should all be united, especially a president who campaigned on doing the right thing for working Americans - around ensuring that employers don't steal money out of their employees' paychecks."

The report also says retailers spend far more money protecting their stores from theft than the Department of Labor spends enforcing wage laws. In 2015, retailers security spending was almost $9 billion. That's 39 times greater than the Department of Labor's entire Wage and Hour Division budget, of about $227 million.

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