Several workers in the garment industry sew masks to meet the coronavirus demand.

Cheated at Work

Published — November 26, 2021

Chart: Clothing factories have a wage theft problem

Employees in Brea, California, switch from making T-shirts to making masks to meet the coronavirus demand in March 2020. (Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)


Wage theft is pervasive in the U.S. In 2019 alone, the Department of Labor cited about 8,500 employers for stealing $287 million from workers. This long-standing practice affects companies large and small and in every industry. Even the venerable USPS is a major offender

Immigrants are among the workers most vulnerable to wage theft. A Center for Public Integrity analysis of Labor Department data found that industries with higher percentages of foreign-born workers had higher rates of wage theft.

One of those industries is the cut-and-sew garment business. The industry employs about 265,000 workers nationally, of whom 42% were born outside the U.S. (the highest in the nation). It also had the second-highest rate of wage theft cases.

Learn more about the companies with wage theft cases involving 100+ workers from our chart below.

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