Wage Theft

Photo of workers protesting

Garment workers, who already receive subsistence wages, are often paid even less than they are owed when their employers fail to obey minimum wage, overtime, and severance laws. By targeting areas where violations are particularly widespread, and by responding to worker complaints at individual factories, we have successfully pressed many employers around the world to start obeying wage laws, and we have helped workers win over $25 million of legally-owed back pay—worth $74 million in purchasing power in workers’ home countries.

Case Study: Haiti

Before the WRC intervened in 2012, almost all Haitian garment factories failed to pay workers the minimum wage. In fact, many were paying workers 32 percent less than the legal minimum. Most factories also cheated workers of overtime pay. This theft of workers’ already poverty-level wages left 75 percent of workers in some areas unable to afford three meals a day for their families.

The WRC’s research and advocacy led to three major apparel brands committing to both end their supplier factories’ violations and to secure $250,000 in back pay for over 2,000 workers. Since we began this work in 2012, more than 10,000 workers across Haiti have seen their wages increase by 50 percent. The WRC continues to work toward the goal of all Haitian garment workers receiving their legally-earned wages.

Severance Pay

Workers are also often cheated out of their legally-owed severance pay, typically when owners shutter factories and abscond overnight. Because many countries where garments are made lack unemployment insurance, workers and their families depend on receiving severance pay when factories close.

Since 2010, the WRC and our allies have successfully pressed major brands like Nike, adidas, Gap, H&M, Disney, and Walmart to provide over $10 million in legally-owed severance to more than 6,000 former employees of shuttered factories around the world.

Related Factory Investigations


During July and September of 2006, the WRC received three separate complaints from worker representatives concerning three factories in Central America owned by a single multinational apparel corporation, known as the Argus Group. In each case it was alleged that workers who had associated with a trade union had been fired illegally. Other areas of concern included occupational health and safety and overtime.



In response to a complaint from workers in late August 2006, the WRC undertook an inquiry into alleged worker rights violations at a factory known as Quality, located in Soyapango, El Salvador. The factory was closed in August of this year and production was relocated to a different region of El Salvador.



Pursuant to a complaint from worker representatives, the WRC investigated and engaged in efforts to remediate code of conduct violations at an apparel facility in El Salvador known as Evergreen. The initial complaint alleged that Evergreen had unlawfully terminated a group of roughly 300 workers in March 2005 in retaliation for efforts by workers to exercise their associational rights and had failed to pay these workers legally mandated back wages, benefits and severance.


Pacific Thailand/Six Sigma Apparel

The WRC undertook an Assessment in response to a complaint from workers alleging a range of code of conduct violations, primarily in the areas of collective bargaining, the provision of benefits, homework, and occupational health and safety.


Far East Garment Textile

The assessment was initiated in response to multiple complaints made by employees of these facilities, primarily concerning the areas of freedom of association and occupational health and safety.


First Apparel

The assessment was initiated in response to multiple complaints made by employees of these facilities, primarily concerning the areas of freedom of association and occupational health and safety.


Easy Group

The WRC’s Assessment of the three Easy Group facilities was carried out in response to complaints from employees alleging serious violations of worker rights. The principal areas of concern identified in the complaints were working hours and compensation, misuse of a contract labor system, and freedom of association and collective bargaining.


PT Dae Joo Leports

The International Labor Organization (ILO), in a 1998 publication, noted that “hours of work, overtime and wages, occupational health and safety, leave, provision of food and transport, social security and the special needs of women workers,” in addition to inadequate access to health care and restricted associational rights, are problems characteristic of export processing zones. In Indonesia’s export processing zones, and in the KBN’s North Jakarta branches in particular, some of these problems are starkly visible.


PT Kolon Langgeng

In November 2002, the WRC received a complaint from workers at PT Kolon Langgeng, including allegations that, if valid, would constitute violations of Indonesian law and of college and university codes of conduct primarily in the realm of wages and benefits, forced and uncompensated overtime, and occupational health and safety.


PT Dada

Violations found include punishing sick leave, danger of severe heat stress, requiring homework, and freedom of association violations.