The exact amount of stolen wages — money that employers owe their employees — in Connecticut is unknown. However, some insight can be gleaned from complaints filed by workers to the departments of labor at both the state and federal levels, which investigate these complaints and can order employers to pay back wages.

Based on investigations of those complaints, the U.S. Department of Labor determined that Connecticut employers owed workers more than $10.3 million from January 2012 to April 2023. From 2019 through 2022, the Connecticut Department of Labor ordered employers to pay almost $17 million in stolen wages after investigations. Any wages ordered to be paid back from judgments by courts or by the National Labor Relations Board fall outside the labor departments’ figures and are hard to quantify due to how cases are recorded. And unreported wage theft could surpass all other categories.

Complicating matters, the state Department of Labor says it is dealing with a critical backlog of cases. Legislation to boost staffing levels failed to pass this year.

While wage theft affects everyone, ranging from white-collar workers to restaurant workers, some communities are more vulnerable.

“Who are our most vulnerable or most marginalized communities as far as employment goes? Undocumented immigrants. Immigrants generally. People whose first language is not English … People who have learning disabilities, people who have been in jail. Generally speaking, people of color, women,” said Peter Goselin, a labor and employment attorney who has specialized in wage and hour law in Connecticut for over a decade.

As for specific employers, the federal database lists hundreds in Connecticut, ranging from fast-food restaurants to mobile phone stores.

The types of employers who steal wages vary, often in industries where the rule of law is faint in the eyes of the employer.

Some of the employers that owed the largest amounts in one case were Family Care Plus, owing over $627,000; Euro Homecare, owing over $605,000; and the Veterans Home and Hospital in Rocky Hill, which belongs to the state Department of Veterans Affairs, owing over $424,000.

The most impacted industry is the restaurant industry, where employers were ordered to pay more than $3 million since 2012, affecting almost 2,000 employees.

Read more: Wage theft in CT: Millions stolen from workers since 2019