Texas Workforce Commission Disputes Rutgers University Study on Back Wages
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is pushing back against a recent study conducted by Rutgers University’s Workplace Justice Lab@RU, which accused the state agency of failing to collect back wages from employers and distribute them to workers. The study claimed that over three million Texas workers were paid less than the minimum wage between 2009 and 2022, with some workers still awaiting their outstanding wages.
However, the TWC has stated that it is unable to verify the findings of the study. While the agency provided the researchers with data through a public records request, it does not have access to the methodology used as the data was combined with other data sets. The TWC emphasized that it pursues all available avenues for wage collection, but there are instances where circumstances prevent successful recovery, such as employers hiding assets or filing for bankruptcy.
According to data provided by the TWC, approximately $101 million in wages were ordered across 55,878 wage claims between 2010 and 2020. Of that amount, over $58 million was collected, which equates to nearly 60% of the wages ordered being paid over the ten-year period. However, the Rutgers study claimed that nearly 80% of owed wages have yet to be received by workers.
The study, which analyzed more than 136,000 claims filed with the TWC, highlighted persistent wage theft in Texas. On average, individual workers experienced minimum wage violations that cost them nearly $4,000 per year, resulting in a total loss of over $12 billion for workers over the past 14 years. The Workplace Justice Lab@RU expressed concern that the TWC’s failure to recover these unpaid wages allows noncompliant employers to violate workers’ rights without consequence, leaving low-wage workers vulnerable to exploitation.
The TWC disputes a claim made by one of the researchers that the agency has issued warnings to employers instead of ordering them to pay back owed wages. According to TWC press officer Angela Woellner, the agency has no record of issuing warnings without ordering payment if wages were indeed due. The TWC maintains that when wages are found to be owed, they are ordered to be paid, and employers receive notice of a first-time violation. Administrative penalties are imposed for subsequent violations if the employer acted in bad faith.
The TWC urges individuals who believe they are owed wages to contact the agency and file a wage claim. The agency notes that it does not cease collection efforts until it determines that claimants have been paid the wages they are owed.
In conclusion, the Texas Workforce Commission has responded to the Rutgers University study accusing it of failing to collect back wages from employers. The TWC disputes the study’s findings and emphasizes its commitment to pursuing wage collection. While there are instances where recovery may be challenging, the TWC continues its efforts to ensure workers receive the wages they are owed.