Although California workers have more protection under the law than workers in other states, there are still many situations where they are at risk. Wage theft is one of these problems, but lawmakers are trying to do something about it.
As the Washington Examiner explains, Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate are proposing new bills to combat wage theft, or the act of an employer withholding overtime or paying less than minimum wage. The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act would raise the fines a company pays when they are found to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Currently, a company is fined $1,100 each time they are found to be breaking the wage laws, but under the new legislation, the first fine would be raised to $2,000 and any fine after that would be $10,000. The lawmakers believe that having more expensive penalties would act as a preventative measure. The law would also triple, rather than double in the current law, the amount an employee must be paid for owed wages.
This legislation comes at a time when one California company owes almost $5 million in wages to its employees. As the Orange Country Register reports, a tow truck company in Anaheim was recently reported to owe $4.9 million in back pay and illegal deductions from employees for the costs of uniforms and damages from accidents. Although employees typically worked 12-hour shifts, they were not paid the legal minimum wage for their work.
In 2014 the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that minimum wage laws were broken in California 372,000 times a week.