And more importantly: What can you do about it?
Wage theft can take a lot of forms. It can mean that an employee is being paid less than the minimum wage in their state, or that any work considered overtime is not paid at the overtime rate. It also includes labor that an employee is doing off the clock (i.e. not being paid for). Deductions in wages due to fabricated workplace violations, pressure not to take paid sick or vacation days, and misclassification of employees as contractors also falls under this term. Some figures estimate that in 2008, workers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City lost more than $2.9 billion due to employment and labor law violations. That's an appalling number!
How is that even possible?!
Lots of employees either don't realize their rights, or are worried that they'll lose their jobs if they try to report the issue. Additionally, the justice system often fails people who do report- even if they win their cases there's very little enforcement of labor laws, which means employers can continue to withhold the money the employee was rightfully due (via the UCLA Labor Center). This isn't an issue of a few bad employers, it's a systemic problem. Laws and enforcement of them simply aren't doing enough to protect working people.
What can you do?
If you feel that your employer hasn't properly compensated you for your work, the National Consumers League has a great resource ---> HERE about how to file a claim.
If this ticks you off as much as it does me, I recommend writing to your representatives. At the State AND Local level (you can do that HERE). Often issues regarding wage theft are dealt with on the state level, not the national. Which means that the politicians closer to home are the ones you need to speak to- and because local elections see less voter turnout it means that every vote really does matter.