"Construction, service industry, manufacturing, you name it and it's seeping into every type of industry across the nation," says Ana Aduayo, with the NWA Worker's Justice Center. "In Arkansas it's not a crime not to pay workers."
Ana Aduayo, with the NWA Worker's Justice Center in Springdale, says when employees are cheated out of their money, business owners -- can't be charged with any crime.
Instead, the employer is only responsible for paying back those earnings.
"In the majority of the cases we see, it's over a year or two until the worker finally sees a check in their hands," says Aduayo.
According to Aduayo, the law also makes it hard to accuse employers of non-payment.
"As a right to work state people understand that they can lose their jobs for any reason at any time," says Aduayo.
While this man--who we'll call Rick--was an employee of Roll-Off Service, Inc., he faced a tough decision when he didn't think his pay stubs looked correct.
"It's either deal with this and have a steady income when hardly anybody else does or say something and lose my job. I've got to feed my family it's going to come first so I had to play shut mouth," says Rick.
He kept quiet, until his co-workers started talking then Rick and filed a claim with the Department of Labor.
"When a worker tries to file, there's a big sense of fear and the fear of retaliation, so when an employer gets away with wage theft, it sends a message out to the community," says Aduayo.
Leaving employees without the paychecks they've worked so hard for.
"When you think about all the money that is being cheated from these families and how they're pushed further into poverty, it becomes an injustice," says Aduayo.
And workers like Rick, who do file a complaint are faced with a long battle.
"It was planned. You could tell it was planned, it was too obvious. I mean if he fought that hard to not give you overtime then you're going to be fighting tooth and nail for awhile," says Rick.
The Arkansas Department of Labor began investigating Roll Off Service for overtime non-compliance in 2009. Now, three years later, the company settled and had to pay 127 employees two years worth of overtime wages.
"It feels good but it doesn't because that money should have been paid to me then because I worked for it then," says Rick.
Now, advocates hoping to push a bill through state legislature that would make it a misdemeanor for employers to withhold wages.
"One of the only ways we can being about fairness in our communities is to change the labor laws in Arkansas," says Aduayo.
She hopes a change in legislation will hold business owners accountable, helping more employees see justice in the workplace.
If you think you've been a victim of wage theft, you can file a complaint with the Arkansas Department of Labor or contact the Workers Justice Center.
The NWA Workers Justice Center is located in Springdale.
You can contact them at (479)-750 8015.