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Here’s How Trump Is Stealing Workers’ Wages

Trump loves to brag about the economy. But while CEO pay hit a record high during his first year in office, Trump’s been working behind the scenes to steal wages from workers.

—Trump’s allowing companies to “self-report” minimum wage and overtime violations in exchange for paying less to workers in damages. Earlier this month, Trump’s Department of Labor (DOL) launched a pilot program that allows employers to “self-report” minimum wage and overtime violations. In return, employers will avoid paying fines and receive immunity from lawsuits brought by workers. The Administration claims this will allow workers to receive their unpaid wages more quickly. But what they fail to mention is that under the program, employers will avoid paying all of the damages, attorneys’ fees and penalties that are supposed to deter wage stealing under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

SIDEBAR: It’s easy to see how the new policy hurts workers. Take Walmart, for example: In 2012, DOL forced the company to pay nearly $5 million in back wages and damages to workers, and $463,815 in civil penalties. By requiring Walmart to pay damages and penalties, rather than just what they stole, DOL was putting companies “on notice.” But in a 2007 settlement, DOL only required Walmart to reimburse workers for back wages and slapped the company with a whopping penalty of $0. Not the best disincentive.

—He’s helping employers steal $5.8 billion in tips from workers each year—and he’s trying to bury the evidence When you tip your bartender for a drink, you probably assume they receive the gratuity. But in December, Trump announced plans to rescind a rule prohibiting employers from stealing worker tips by redistributing them to untipped workers, including management. In addition to eliminating these protections, Trump’s plan explicitly allows employers to legally pocket their employees’ tips, as long as they pay tipped workers the minimum wage. Trump’s tip-stealing rule would allow employers to pocket $5.8 billion in tips each year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That’s likely why political officials at DOL refused to release the agency’s own economic analysis of the impacts of Trump’s proposal on workers over the objection of experts.

SIDEBAR: A final rule hasn’t been published yet, and Congress is reportedly attempting to step in and stop him, but Trump is already making it easier for employers to steal tips. Last July, the Administration announced that DOL investigators are “forbidden” from enforcing the current tip protections while the agency reconsiders it.

—He’s making it easier for businesses to avoid paying entry-level workers by hiring unpaid interns. In 2010, DOL cracked down on businesses attempting to turn paid entry-level jobs into unpaid internships. The Department issued guidance documents that said businesses were required to pay their interns unless six requirements were met, including that the business derive “no immediate advantage from the activities of the interns.” This prompted some employers to pay their interns and drew attention to the problem of unequal access to internships for those from low-income backgrounds. But in January, Trump revoked the guidance documents in favor of more malleable standards that permit unpaid internships to displace entry-level jobs as long as interns are the “primary beneficiary” of the arrangement.

SIDEBAR: Trump’s move will cause young people to lose out on pay. It will also strip them of federal protections against sexual harassment. Why? Unpaid interns are not considered “employees” under laws like the Civil Rights Act, and as a result, they’re not protected against sexual harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination.

—He’s making it easier for federal contractors to avoid scrutiny for paying workers less based on their gender or race. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is responsible for ensuring federal contractors don’t discriminate against workers. Between 2010 and 2015, OFCCP uncovered 360 instances of illegal contractor discrimination. But Trump recently reined in their efforts, capping the number of locations OFCCP is allowed to audit for a single contractor at 10, regardless of how many factories, offices, or stores the contractor operates. During the Obama Administration, OFCCP had no such limit (and even the Bush Administration set the limit at 25).

SIDEBAR: This isn’t the only way Trump is making it harder to hold companies responsible for pay discrimination. Trump also illegally rolled back critical pay transparency requirements intended to root out race and gender discrimination and close the wage gap across the private sector. We sued with the National Women’s Law Center and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement to reinstate those requirements.

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