Jul 28, 2016
As employees join the “Fight for 15” and attempt to raise the minimum wage, many workers across the country are fighting just to collect last week’s paycheck. Now, following the example of other cities, counties, and states, Philadelphia ischanging the way it operates to make it easier for employees to collect the money they have earned and to deter employers from engaging in a practice known as wage theft.
Wage theft occurs when an employer does not pay an employee correctly. It takes many forms: failure to pay employees for hours they have worked, payment that is less than the minimum wage, failure to pay employees their proper overtime rate, and more. A recent report from Temple University’s Sheller Center for Social Justice estimates that in any given workweek, Pennsylvania employees lose between $19 and $32 million dollars due to wage theft. In the Philadelphia area alone, tens of thousands of wage theft cases occur every week. To address this reality, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will increase the city’s capacity to enforce the state and federal wage laws that are designed to protect employees from wage theft.
The ordinance makes two important changes to Philadelphia’s current regulatory scheme. First, the ordinance creates a Wage Theft Coordinator position within the city government. The Coordinator will receive, review, and adjudicate new wage theft complaints. While adjudicating, the Coordinator will examine the evidence-which could include records of hours worked and rates of pay-and determine if an employer has violated any wage laws. If the employer is found guilty and refuses to comply with the judgment, the Coordinator will have the authority to take further action by filing a complaint in court.