California Considers New Law to Prevent Wage Theft

A bill was recently signed into law that aims to prevent wage theft. Before we discuss how the bill will work, let’s go over why it was needed in the first place.

Wage theft is an out-of-control problem in California and here in Los Angeles. In fact, Los Angeles workers are denied $26.6 million in pay every week. Let’s do some math to show the true scope of the problem. If we multiply $26.6 million by 52, (the number of weeks in a year) we get more than $1.3 billion stolen from Los Angeles workers annually.

Despite California gradually raising the minimum wage and passing other laws to improve the lives of workers, wage theft continues to affect an unacceptable number of immigrant and low-wage laborers.

Many employers simply ignore minimum wage laws and deny vulnerable groups of people the means to survive. For example, UCLA and Economic Roundtable statistics show that 30 percent of low wage workers in Los Angeles receive less than minimum wage. In addition, 88.5 percent experience wage theft.

To respond to this problem, state lawmakers have passed and signed into law SB 1342. The law will delegate city and county officials the power to investigate claims of wage theft. City and county officials can also pair their efforts with state and federal wage theft resources.

Prior rules delegated these powers to the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Under the new rules, county and city officials will have subpoena and investigatory powers.

What Are Examples of Wage Theft?

Wage theft can include paying less than minimum wage, failing to provide full overtime pay, misclassifying workers as independent contractors, misclassifying workers as managerial employees, failing to reimburse employees for essential job items, falsely reporting hours and unlawful deductions from wages.

If you have been hurt by wage theft, it is important to carefully document evidence. This evidence will become important in the event a lawsuit is needed to recover lost wages.

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