Omid Nosrati

DOL urging retail workers to watch for wage violations during holidays

With the holiday season in full swing -- and the Christmas holiday just one week away -- it's safe to assume that both traditional brick and mortar establishments and online retailers will be enjoying solids sales, particularly from last-minute shoppers. Indeed, many businesses will undoubtedly be offering special sales in the days ahead in an attempt to clear the shelves of merchandise and further increase profit margins.

All of these efforts to maximize retailer revenue are, of course, predicated on the hard work of retail employees from cashiers and stockers to inventory managers and warehouse workers, many of whom are paid minimum wage and/or seasonally employed.

While there is nothing novel about the notion of employers of all sizes relying on a relatively economical workforce during the holiday shopping season, the U.S. Department of Labor has in recent years become increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of retail workers to wage violations during this time.

According to the DOL, these wage violations, which can be committed either inadvertently or purposefully by business owners, typically take the following forms:

  • Failing to pay retail workers overtime when they've logged 40-plus hours in a given workweek
  • Failing to pay cashiers for the time spent preparing and/or closing registers
  • Mandating that staff must work through meal periods without pay

In the event there is any doubt that wage violations are a very real problem in this sector, consider that the DOL found over 14,600 retail workers more than $14.7 million in back wages in fiscal year 2016 alone. Breaking the numbers down, this amounts to an unbelievable $1,000 per retail worker, almost double their average weekly earnings.

It's important for all retail workers -- whether permanent and full-time, or temporary -- to understand that they have rights and they have options for seeking justice if they believe that they have been victimized by any manner of wage and hour violation.  

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