A few weeks ago, Los Angeles radio station KCRW used investigative journalists to uncover possible wage theft at numerous restaurants around the city. Labor violations cited by KCRW include stolen tips, refusal of overtime pay, denial of breaks and no pay for off-the-clock work. The investigation discovered that lower level workers in restaurants experience the worst labor violations, and in some cases, even threats of physical violence.
The investigation provides grim examples of what workers experiencing wage theft can face. In one example, a man who had worked as a baker at a Korean cafe for 25 years was forced to quit after developing arthritis. Unable to work, he became homeless. After he sought help at the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, he discovered his old employer owed him $16,000 in overtime pay. When he approached his former employer, the owner refused to pay, saying “overtime is against restaurant policy.”
According to KCRW, 10 percent of the 40,000 wage claims filed in Los Angeles involve workers in the restaurant industry. The UCLA Labor Center claims $26 million is stolen from Los Angeles workers every week. Many are restaurant workers
What Legal Options Are Available for Fighting Wage Theft?
Like many areas of employment law, such as workplace discrimination, it helps to have evidence of wage theft. Pay stubs, conversations with supervisors, messages, and an accounting of when and what was said can help the outcome of wage claims.
Also remember, that California recently passed legislation to help workers file wage claims against employers. SB 1342 will delegate city and county officials to investigate claims of wage theft. We recently discussed the new law on our blog and encourage you to check it out.