Houston’s Attempt To Curb Wage Theft (TX)

Whatever came from Houston’s Wage Theft Ordinance? We take a look.

JULY 18, 2017, 7:00 AM (LAST UPDATED: JULY 18, 2017, 10:22 AM)

It’s called, “wage theft.” And it’s a problem here in Houston, that the city tried to address. More on how that worked out in a minute.

But first, just what constitutes wage theft?

It takes many forms. Not paying workers overtime they are entitled to, working off-the-clock, minimum wage violations, incorrectly categorizing employees as independent contractors, illegal deductions in pay, and not paying workers at all are all common examples of wage theft.

Stealing workers’ wages is an issue that even compelled President Obama to implement an executive order back in 2014 which, in part, discouraged businesses from committing wage theft, by not allowing them to receive federal contracts. That was repealed by President Trump back in March.

Tom Padgett is a lawyer in Houston, who says he represents lots of wage theft cases.
“The problem is that employers hold all the cards. And employees are afraid. They are afraid of retaliation…. I mean, we’ve had employees who have asserted their rights, and then the employers fire them, and they lose their house. Or they can’t afford their health insurance anymore, and their baby gets sick. So there’s a lot of terrible stories out there,” Padgett said.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (commonly known as FLSA) is a federal statute, put in place to ensure proper payment for workers. But Padgett’s firm says federal and state agencies don’t really have the man power to truly enforce that.

“There’s no specific Texas wage and hour law that would protect people. We have to go to federal court or we have to get a municipality, or a local ordinance, like Houston,” Padgett said. “But I haven’t seen any impact from the Houston ordinance, or any change at all.”

Padgett is referring to the Houston Wage Theft Ordinance, which was passed in 2013. It was put in place to deter businesses from stealing worker’s wages, by banning violators from working with the city. The ordinance even effectively bans businesses from operating in Houston, by way of not being able to renew permits and licenses.

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