Houston’s Attempt To Curb Wage Theft (TX)

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

ALLISON LEE | POSTED ON
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 That was repealed by President Trump back in March.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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The St. Petersburg Wage Theft Ordinance: New Notice and Poster Requirements

Monday, June 26, 2017

The City of St. Petersburg, Florida, recently amended its wage theft ordinance to require employers to provide pay notice to employees at the time of hire and to display “in a location accessible to all employees” a poster about wage theft. See St. Pete. Code, Chap. 15, Art. III, Sec. 15-40, et seq. These requirements are not yet in effect. As detailed below, the effective date is on hold pending the completion of a memorandum of understanding by the City, which is engaging a “community-based” organization to “implement the purposes of this article.”

The ordinance defines the term “employee” broadly to mean a “natural person who performs work within the geographic boundaries of the City while being employed by an employer . . .” including “a person who performs work that benefits an employer located within the City even though the employee may have performed work outside of the City.” The ordinance excludes “any bona fide independent contractor,” stating that the term “independent contractor” “shall have the same meaning as in the Internal Revenue Code, Fair Labor Standards Act, and implementing federal regulations, administrative interpretations and guidance” (though “independent contractor” is defined differently by the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Labor).

Background

On December 15, 2016, the St. Petersburg City Council passed several amendments to the City’s wage theft ordinance. Under Sec. 15-44, there are three new requirements for employers. Employers must provide a “written notice” to employees at time of hire, including a “template summary” summarizing the employee’s rights (available from the City), written notice of changes in pay, and a poster (available from the City). Sec. 15-44(a)-(d). There is also a $500.00 “per violation” penalty for an employer’s failure to adhere to any part of the ordinance. Sec. 15-44(e). The term “violation” is not defined.

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Proposed Fix to Get Business Owners to Pay Unpaid Wages (FL)

By Myriam Masihy
Updated at 8:50 PM EST on Jan 24, 2017

A proposed ordinance could help strengthen Miami-Dade County’s existing wage theft ordinance.

Commissioner Pepe Diaz introduced the plan that would add attorney fees to the amount a business owes an employee who takes them to court over unpaid wages.

“They can try to ignore it but it’s going to be a lot harder,” Diaz said.

The county has a wage theft ordinance that allows a worker to take a former employer to a hearing over unpaid money. A hearing officer can rule that a business owner has to pay. But the NBC 6 Investigators found business owners still not paying workers even after the deadline passes.

The new plan would require a business to pay attorney fees and costs that a worker takes on trying to get the money. An attorney is not required in the initial hearing portion of a wage theft hearing but could be needed to pursue a business that doesn’t pay.

“We’re going to continue to do things so hopefully, hopefully this will be a thing of the past in Miami-Dade County,” Diaz said.

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Ensuring a Fair Day’s Pay

Kim Cullen
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.

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Philly’s new wage theft ordinance is now in effect

You can file complaints through city if employer doesn’t pay out

JULY 07, 2016
BY DANIEL CRAIG

A new city ordinance gives employees working in the city of Philadelphia a tool to reclaim wages stolen by an employer.

The ordinance, signed into law by then-Mayor Michael Nutter in December 2015, went into effect on July 1.

The legislation was introduced by Councilman Bill Greenlee in an effort to curb the illegal practice in Philadelphia, where workers of color and those in the service industry are disproportionally affected, Al Dia News reported last year.

According to data, up to $32 million in wages is withheld from workers statewide every week, and about 93,000 instances of wage theft occur in that same time period in the Philadelphia metro area, according to the news outlet.

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Philadelphia’s Tough New Anti-Wage Theft Law Effective July 1

6/28/2016
by Timothy McCarthy, Stephanie Peet

Effective on July 1, 2016, the City of Philadelphia’s Wage Theft Law imposes higher penalties for violations than currently are imposed by the state’s anti-wage theft law, provides for a private right of action for alleged violations, and creates the position of Wage Theft Coordinator within the City’s Managing Director’s Office.

While wage theft (typically refers to the intentional non-payment or underpayment of earned wages) is already subject to penalty under Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law (43 P.S. § 260.1 et seq.), Philadelphia’s new ordinance increases employers’ compliance obligations and potential penalties for violations.

Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law the City’s first anti-wage theft ordinance (“Wage Theft Law”) on December 1, 2015.

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Historic Occasion:City Council Passes Wage Theft Ordinance in 11-0 Vote

By Seth Daniel
April 29, 2016
It was an historic occasion on Monday night when the Chelsea City Council voted unanimously to enact a Wage Theft Ordinance – the first Council in the state to do so.

The City’s wage theft ordinance, brought to the floor by nine councillors earlier this month, would seek to make a statement about the prevalence of wage theft from employees, but in particular from vulnerable immigrant communities in the city. Practically speaking, the ordinance states that no contractor (or any subcontractor) or vendor hired by the City can have a federal or state criminal or civil judgment, administrative citation, final administrative determination, order or debarment resulting from a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act or any other federal or state laws regulating the payment of wages within three year prior to the date of any contract with the City. It also calls for any violation of the above laws during a contract period be reported to the City within five days.

It also includes a provision that allows the License Commission to deny any permit or license if violations of the law have been made within three years of any application. If any violation of the above law occurs during a licensed period, the Commission can also take action on a license for the violations.

Wage theft is defined roughly as not paying minimum wage, not paying overtime, withholding pay and sometimes not paying at all.

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Seattle’s New Wage Theft Ordinance Imposes Notice Requirements and Civil Penalties

4/16/2015 by Breanna M. Sheetz, Daniel L. Thieme and James Zissler

 

Effective April 1, 2015, a new Wage Theft Ordinance imposes specific wage and tip notice requirements on employers in the City of Seattle.1  The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) is granted power to investigate complaints, and employers who violate the Ordinance are subject to orders to pay wages and tips, as well as civil penalties.

What Employers Should Do Immediately to Comply with this Ordinance

Following are the immediate steps that employers should take if they have non-exempt employees2 working in Seattle:

1. Provide immediate notice of the wage theft law to Seattle employees.

Employers must provide notice of employees’ rights under this law in writing (or electronically, as noted below). The SOCR has issued a poster that includes the required information about the new wage theft law, as well as information about Seattle’s new minimum wage law.  The poster is available in English (http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/CivilRights/mwo-poster-english.pdf) and Spanish (http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/CivilRights/mwo-poster-spanish.pdf).  In lieu of displaying the poster, employers can comply with this requirement by reprinting the information in a handbook, or duplicating the poster in another format such as a letter or online system that is accessible by employees.

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To Combat Wage Theft, San Jose Weighs Local Ordinance

By Jennifer Wadsworth / April 15, 2015

 

Taking a cue from Santa Clara County, San Jose is considering adopting a wage theft ordinance. The city rule would deny permits, licenses and government contracts to businesses with pending wage theft violations.

In a proposal submitted to the Rules and Open Government Committee, City Council members Don Rocha, Margie Matthews, Ash Kalra and Magdalena Carrasco say local enforcement would will regulatory gaps that leave thousands of low-wage workers under-paid with little recourse.

They share the story of a live-in caregiver, Priscilla Soriano, who worked 12-hour days six days a week, but never got paid overtime. In 2011, she filed a complaint with the state Labor Commission, which ruled that the employer owed her $64,904 in unpaid wages.

Between 2011 and 2014, nearly 1,100 San Jose-based businesses were slapped with wage theft judgments, according to Santa Clara County Superior Court records cited in the Rules memo. Women, immigrants and anyone working a low-wage job are the most at-risk.

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