CHICAGO, May 22 (UPI) -- A director for the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division says immigrant workers should immediately report unfair labor practices to authorities.
Jules Van Rengen, the labor department director, said Saturday unless workers report employers who rip them off, there is little that can be done to end the practice, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Van Rengen directed his comments to Vinicio Ezparza, who was owed at least $5,000 for work he did on a Darien, Ill., pet store last year. Ezparza said he continued to work after his checks bounced. The company later filed for bankruptcy protection and Ezparza was never paid anything.
Ezparza and a group of mostly immigrant workers gathered in the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in South Chicago told Rengen wage theft is on the increase as jobs become scarcer and people like them get more desperate.
"People are willing to do whatever they have to [to find work]," Ezparza said, speaking for several of those joining him for the meeting with Van Rengen.
Van Rengen said workers should report wage theft as soon as they're aware of it.
"It's difficult for us to do many things if we're not aware of it," Van Rengen told the group, urging them to become his agency's "eyes and ears."
"There's a lot of good employers out there, but that's not the ones we have to worry about," Van Rengen said. "The ones we want to worry about are the ones who end up concealing, intimidating and terminating if you don't agree with their philosophy."