Favour Ori, the founder of tech job outsourcing company, Wejapa recently came under fire on Twitter.
As a Nigerian developer accused him of extortion for services rendered.
According to Silas Adedoyin, a Nigerian software engineer and an acclaimed victim, Favour Ori never fulfilled the promised international job placement following his victory in the WeJapa Web App Hackathon.
This is in addition to his other accusations of underpayment, reluctance in payment and the lack of remuneration on certain occasions.
Whether true or not, this is one example of wage theft, especially in Africa.
Wage Theft Explained
Wage theft occurs when employees are denied the wages or benefits that are rightfully owed.
It can be carried out by employers in different ways. See examples of theft;
Failure to pay for overtime
This occurs when employees are asked to work before or after the agreed hours for work, without payment.
It can also include working during the designated time for break or lunch.
Violating the minimum wage laws in the country
In a country, there is a minimum wage stipulation. Even deductions from paychecks are not to result in employees getting less than the minimum wage.
Contrary to this stipulation though, there are still cases where employers pay below the normal.
Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
A normal employee has rights that are protected and guaranteed by the law of the country.
These rights include workers’ compensation, payroll taxes paid by their employers, and unemployment insurance.
Employees that are classified as independent contractors do not get to enjoy these benefits.
They are also charged with paying their own payroll taxes to the IRS.
So, deliberately misclassifying employees as independent contractors is one way employers can rid themselves of due payments.
Illegal deduction in salary
When asked, employers can cite a plethora of reasons for deducting from an employee’s paycheck.
Most times, these reasons are not stated at the start of employment.
Non-payment of salary
This is a refusal to pay the agreed salary as at when due.
It could be due to the knowledge that the labour laws in a country are not so strong. Or just an outright refusal to pay.
But employers can decide to not pay workers for the services rendered.
In most African countries, for instance, there are little or no wage theft laws in place. Neither are the Labor Unions very functional.
While countries realise the need and actually push for theft laws to be in place, below are a few temporary suggestions;
High Price Tags as Temporary Punishment
If really expensive price tags are in place for employers that treat workers anyhow, the number of defaulters would lessen considerably.
Low fees as punishment for theft, may not adequately prevent employers from avoiding wage theft acts.
But when (temporary) high amounts are required, including an extra fee for damages done to an employee, employers would most likely sit up.
Laws to Protect Whistle Blowers
While victims can report cases of theft, whistleblowers can as well.
This means that there should be rules offering whistleblowers protection and anonymity.
When employers are aware that their actions are apparent to people, the likelihood to commit such crimes could be reduced to the minimum.
Clearly state the roles and expectations for workers
It is important that employers, first of all, properly understand the roles of their employees.
Properly understanding the roles will help with employee classification. And will help employers avoid the employee/independent contractor problem.
Even with the suggestions made above, it is important that we actively and collectively seek to put wage theft laws in place.
While this is ongoing, employers/employees can strive through their actions, to prevent the act in its various forms.
Featured Image: employeematters.com.au
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