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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Wage theft as a neglected public health problem: an overview and case study from San Francisco's Chinatown District.

  • Author(s): Minkler, Meredith
  • Salvatore, Alicia L
  • Chang, Charlotte
  • Gaydos, Megan
  • Liu, Shaw San
  • Lee, Pam Tau
  • Tom, Alex
  • Bhatia, Rajiv
  • Krause, Niklas
  • et al.

Wage theft, or nonpayment of wages to which workers are legally entitled, is a major contributor to low income, which in turn has adverse health effects. We describe a participatory research study of wage theft among immigrant Chinatown restaurant workers. We conducted surveys of 433 workers, and developed and used a health department observational tool in 106 restaurants. Close to 60% of workers reported 1 or more forms of wage theft (e.g., receiving less than minimum wage [50%], no overtime pay [> 65%], and pay deductions when sick [42%]). Almost two thirds of restaurants lacked required minimum wage law signage. We discuss the dissemination and use of findings to help secure and enforce a wage theft ordinance, along with implications for practice.

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