by Scott Braddock on Wed, 09/16/2015 – 8:30am
The first reported conviction of a contractor guilty of wage theft was handed down by a jury in El Paso this past week. The case against the employer was pursued under a law passed in 2011 by a local lawmaker who has made stamping out wage theft one of his personal causes.
The victim, Esteban Rangel, said he was owed $2,295 by the owner of Sun City Roofing, John Najera. Najera did not have any prior convictions, which is why the 180 day jail sentence announced in court was reduced to three months of probation. In addition, Najera must pay a fine of $5,000 and Rangel will receive $2,295 in restitution.
The lawmaker who pushed for passage of the state’s new wage theft law, Sen. Jose Rodríguez, said the conviction is an important step forward and will hopefully send a message to other unethical business owners. The bill he successfully championed in 2011 allows for criminal prosecution for wage theft if – with the intent to avoid payment – an employer fails to make full payment after receiving notice.
“This conviction is a landmark in the fight against wage theft,” Rodríguez said. “Unscrupulous employers who intentionally steal from employees now know there are real consequences for robbing workers of the pay that they’re owed,” said the El Paso Democrat.