A new study seeks to collect detailed information about how wage theft occurs in the construction industry in Colorado. The project, organized by the University of Denver will also extend legal services to research participants who have not received the wages they are owed.
DU students and law professor Raja Raghunath have already been answering legal questions at informal, street-side gatherings in Denver and Aurora where day-laborers assemble to find work.
Researchers expect to interview approximately 75 day-laborers by the time the project is completed next June, University of Denver anthropologist Rebecca Galemba said.
Researchers are also looking to interview employers, business associations, lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, unions, consulates and non-profit and faith organizations, she said.
Data from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division show 50,000 Colorado workers received $31 million in back wages from 2005 to present following a federal investigation.
A Rocky Mountain PBS I-News analysis found that the construction industry was the largest source of illegally withheld wages in Colorado.
The full scope of the issue is difficult to quantify, as workers often don’t tell authorities when they haven’t been paid and federal investigators don’t audit every employer.
“We want to look into the social context and conditions behind the numbers, especially when the numbers may be unreliable,” Galemba said.