While wage theft — when an employer neglects to pay an employee — affects everyone, ranging from white-collar workers to restaurant workers, some communities are more vulnerable.

Peter Goselin, a labor and employment attorney who has specialized in wage and hour law in Connecticut for over a decade, said the communities that are most vulnerable to wage theft include immigrants, people whose first language is not English, people who have learning disabilities, people who have been in jail, people of color and women.

Workers can file wage complaints with the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor, which will investigate cases that might violate the Fair Labor Standards Act. If a violation of that law is found, such as not paying overtime or the federal minimum wage, WHD takes compliance action against the employer. That action can include imposing financial penalties or ordering employers to pay back wages.

Compliance action data show that from January 2012 to April 2023, WHD ordered Connecticut employers to pay back more than $10.3 million in wages for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The data only includes closed cases, meaning there could still be other active cases, and it is unknown whether the wages were paid back. Some employers had civil penalties imposed on them, which are issued in cases of repeated or willful violations or child labor. In the same time frame, WHD imposed about $247,000 in civil penalties on employers.

Within Connecticut, Fairfield County was the place where employers were ordered to pay the most wages and where the most employees were affected.

Anybody, regardless of immigration status, can submit a complaint to the Wage and Hour Division if they believe they aren't being paid the federal minimum wage or overtime. However, they have only two years to submit a claim in cases of accidental violations or three years for intentional violations.

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