On average, low-wage workers are only paid about 85 percent of the money they should make each week. The rest—$50 billion a year by one recent estimate—stays in the hands of employers who fudge time sheets, make employees work off the clock, or refuse to pay overtime. Last year the Obama administration tapped David Weil, a professor of economics and management, to head the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces laws against so-called wage theft.
At Obama’s request, the division is also developing a rule that would make more white-collar workers eligible for overtime pay. In August, Weil announced that LinkedIn would pay almost $6 million in damages and back wages to 359 workers. “David’s smart, he’s strategic, he’s really committed on this stuff,” says Kim Bobo, executive director of labor advocacy group Interfaith Worker Justice, who helped popularize the term wage theft. “Essentially, it’s a game of triage.”