Arkansas Should Help Protect Workers’ Wages

Every Arkansan deserves to be paid by their employer for the work they’ve done. Sounds pretty obvious, right? It is. But in Arkansas, we make it too easy for employers to steal wages from their employees by not requiring simple statements of what’s owed, like pay stubs, for example. Employers can fail to pay workers the wages they are legally obligated to in the following ways:

  • Minimum wage violations: Paying workers less than the legal minimum wage
  • Overtime violations: Failing to pay nonexempt employees time and a half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week
  • Off-the-clock violations: Asking employees to work off the clock before or after their shifts
  • Meal break violations: Denying workers their legal meal breaks
  • Illegal deductions: Taking illegal deductions from wages
  • Tipped minimum wage violations: Confiscating tips from workers, or failing to pay tipped workers the difference between their tips and the legal minimum wage
  • Employee misclassification violations: Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to pay a wage lower than the legal minimum or to avoid paying overtime

These are all forms of “wage theft,” which costs more than all other forms of theft combined. This not only harms workers, but robs state and local governments of tax revenue, which in turn reduces the provision of public services or necessitates higher overall tax rates.

And most workers never recover these lost wages; while more than $3 billion in lost wages were recovered for workers between 2017 and 2020, research estimates that workers lose more than $15 billion every year to wage theft.

In Arkansas, less than $1 million is recovered annually, likely representing only a fraction of actual wage theft. One reason is that Arkansas law does not require employers to provide a statement that details employee pay information – one of only 9 states without this requirement.

Without this basic information, many workers are not able to accurately assess how much pay they are owed, much less work through the onerous process of recovering lost wages. At the very least, state law should require that workers receive pay stubs with adequate information such as dates for the pay period, employee’s pay rate, deductions, and net pay.

And yet, each time simple legislation like this is introduced, it fails. Our elected officials should do better by Arkansas workers.