“Wage theft” occurs when an employer confiscates an employee’s tips or otherwise fails to properly pay an employee. It has long been recognized as a problem in California. That’s why Governor Brown signed one of the nation’s first wage theft laws, AB 469, back in 2011. You can find my prior blog post about that law, and what requirements it imposes on California employers, here.
Fast-forward several years and now everyone is talking about “wage theft.”
A story in yesterday’s New York Times discusses a “flood of recent cases” across the country accusing employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours, and wrongfully taking employee’s tips. The story includes a quote from California’s Labor Commissioner, Julie Su, who said, “My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history.” Employers and their advocates disagree, of course. They claim that most employers operate with great integrity and that, therefore, “wage theft” is actually a rare phenomenon. The increase in lawsuits, they claim, has nothing to do with actual “wage theft” and everything to do with greedy, “opportunistic” trial lawyers. You can find the full New York Times story here.
Interestingly, the New York Times comes only a few months after California launched it’s “Wage Theft is a Crime” campaign. That campaign, which is aimed at educating workers and employers about California’s labor standards, includes campaign-specific websites in English (www.wagetheftisacrime.com) and Spanish (www.robodesueldoesuncrimen.com) that provides details on how to identify and report wage theft. You can find the California Labor Commissioner’s press releases announcing this new campaign here.