Over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing more tweets from human resources types and mainstream reporters using the phrase “wage theft”. Two recent examples? William Tincup (who runs the popular online DriveThruHR show that I appeared on a while ago) recently tweeted:
— William Tincup, SPHR (@williamtincup) April 23, 2014
And The New York Times labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse yesterday tweeted:
NYT Editorial: Wage Theft Across the Board–Sorry to say, wage theft hits low-wage & middle-class workers alike. http://t.co/4xnMqgtyEr
— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) April 22, 2014
Yes, even The New York Times Editorial Board is beginning to use the term with surprising carelessness suggesting “law enforcement officials” (a term typically reserved for police officers, not Department of Labor officials) routinely use it.
It’s time for employers to beware this phrase and fight its usage because, in my view, it’s really an attempt to turn something often unintentional, into something nefarious and intentional.
Or as Mandy Patinkin’s character in The Princess Bride said: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
What DO I mean? Well, think of the word, “theft” and most of us think of the intentional taking of something that belongs to someone else. Like your jewelry, or your iPhone. Even your company’s trade secrets.