Hundreds of workers in 137 zip codes across Houston are victims of labor abuse, according to the Faith & Justice Work Center, which says 768 workers have complained about wage theft, discriminatory health and safety violations, threats made in the workplace, and other infringements on a worker's rights.
In total, about $1.2 million have been stolen from Houston area employees. That comes to $3,600 per person, which is equivalent to 494 hours of work at a minimum wage job.
Abuse has occured everywhere, from wealthy areas to working-class neighborhoods. After mapping out in detail the areas in Houston where all types of labor abuse occur, it's apparent that the issue is a widespread one. There are only a few pockets where there have been no reports.
There are ways to combat an abusive employer.
"The most important thing that people can do is document what's happening at work," says Marianela Acuña Arreaza, executive director of Faith & Justice Work Center. "It can be painful, because we don't want to repeat something awful that happened at work, but we want to have documentation of what's happening."
Oftentimes, immigrants are taken advantage of by their employers. Areas that a lot of complaints come in from are neighborhoods that are heavily populated by immigrants.
"It's not only immigrants that this is happening to, it's happening to everyone. It's happening because employers think that they can get away with it," said Acuña Arreaza. "If you have a specific vulnerability, such as you're a woman, you're an immigrant, it may be more likely to happen to you, but it's really a community problem."