US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Paystub: More than just a piece of paper

By Father Anthony E. Cutcher | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog Justice

Guest blog

“Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin” (Deuteronomy 24:15).

There are no gray areas in what scripture teaches us about honoring a worker’s right to a fair day’s pay. Yet, wage theft remains rampant in the United States. And in many cases, employers get away with undercutting workers’ hours and making illegal pay deductions because they are not required to provide wage calculations to the workers who earned them.

A recent study found that 41 percent of low-wage workers had illegal deductions taken from their pay. Many of these workers were never issued paystubs, making it difficult to prove wage theft, much less, recover their stolen wages. There are no federal regulations that require employers to issue paystubs and it is estimated that more than 20 million workers do not receive them.

Without a paystub, workers do not know how their pay is calculated or what is deducted from their wages. This is about more than just money or a small piece of paper. It’s about justice, accountability and transparency. A paystub is a constant reminder of the pact made at hiring: “I will work for you and you will pay me my due”. It is an employer’s way of showing that they value the work done, and have deducted only what is required by law or agreed upon at hiring.

Simply put, every worker can and should receive a paystub.

As a former bookkeeper, I can say from experience that preparing paystubs manually is neither time-consuming nor difficult. But in all honesty, with the low cost accounting software, no one needs to prepare them manually anymore. If you are on the up-and-up, and you are not stealing from your employees, then there is absolutely no reason not to issue a paystub.

Now some employers will argue that they provide a web link, or a service that requires web access, a bank account or some such barrier to easy access to a worker’s paystub. But often for our lowest paid, often immigrant worker, this is truly a barrier. Paystubs should be free, easily accessible and easily understood by the worker.

The fix is easy. No new law need be passed. The Department of Labor just needs to amend the recordkeeping rules to include a provision for the issuance of a paystub. It really is that simple.

Last week, I sent Labor Secretary Tom Perez an e-mail, asking him to include Paystubs for All in the department’s regulatory agenda.  At least 5,000 other people of faith and good conscience have emailed him similar requests. You should contact him, too.

Will a change in the regulation end wage theft? No, wage theft is a complex problem. But it is a start. How do I know I’m being ripped off if I don’t know what I’m supposed to get in the first place?

Millions come to America to pursue their dream. That dream is often as simple as ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.’ We owe it to them in the spirit of justice to help that dream become a reality. Being able to see what they make and where their money goes is a start.

Image: Flickr photo cc from Bernard Pollack.