Padilla, Feinstein Support Legislation to Crack Down on ‘Wage Theft’

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.) today released the following statement after they cosponsored the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act.

The bill,introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), aims to stop employers who withhold wages, deny overtime pay, steal tips, misclassify workers and utilize similar tactics that harm their employees. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) introduced the House version of the bill.

“The issue of employers withholding wages, denying overtime and stealing tips is a serious problem that disproportionately affects lower-wage workers, especially those who earn the minimum wage,” said Senators Padilla and Feinstein in a joint statement. “It’s time for Congress to ensure workers are paid the wages they earn and are not taken advantage of by their employers. That’s why we’re proud to cosponsor the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act to help protect American workers from losing billions of dollars in wages.”

“No worker should ever be cheated out of the hard-earned pay they have worked for—it’s as simple as that,” said Senator Murray. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues to reintroduce the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act, which strengthens federal protections to make sure all workers are paid for the work they’ve done—and can fully recover wages their employers have stolen from them. It’s time we pass this commonsense bill and ensure workers across the country get paid what they’ve earned.”

“Simply put, the biggest economic challenge currently affecting workers across the country is that they are in jobs that do not pay them enough to survive. People are struggling. Every day, countless workers are punching in and working long hours for an honest day’s pay only to have their employers cheat them out of their wages. That is inexcusable, and Congress has the responsibility to act to ensure hard-working people receive their hard-earned wages,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act is comprehensive legislation that will strengthen current federal law and empower employees to recover their lost wages. Whether it is compensation for a day’s work or overtime, employees should be paid what they earn. This legislation puts workers first and boosts economic security for families while helping our economy grow.”

“It is unacceptable that dishonest employers can steal workers’ wages with little to no consequence. Each year, our most vulnerable workers are cheated out of billions of dollars. We cannot grow the middle class or expect workers to confidently return to the workforce when we don’t even have adequate deterrents to prevent wage theft,” said Chairman Scott. “Workers and employers must be able to trust that our labor laws will hold unscrupulous employers accountable for violating the law and help workers recover the wages stolen from them. This bill would take critical steps to help workers receive the full pay they’ve earned for all hours worked, including overtime pay, and level the playing field for law-abiding employers.”

While most employers act honestly and treat workers fairly, some force their employees to work off the clock, refuse to pay workers the minimum wage, deny workers overtime pay or steal workers’ tips.

One estimate is that workers lose $50 billion per year that they are legally owed through a variety of minimum wage, overtime, off-the-clock, tip and meal-break violations.

These illegal practices, known as “wage theft,” disproportionately harm low-wage workers and amplify poverty. For those with at least 10 years in the workforce, nearly 40 percent describe experiencing wage theft at some point in their careers.

As many as 35 percent of tipped workers, and 17 percent of low-wage workers generally, report being paid less than the prevailing local minimum wage in their state. Worse, 46 percent of tipped workers in service industries say they are not compensated at the legally required “time-and-a-half” rate for overtime work.

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act would strengthen fundamental protections to allow workers to receive the full compensation they have earned and will crack down on corporations that subject workers to these abuses. Taking these steps will help ensure our economy works better for all Americans, not just the wealthiest few.

The bill would help combat wage theft and improve wage recovery by:

  • Strengthening workers’ right to fair pay and improving employer accountability
  • Increasing deterrence of and penalties for wage theft violations
  • Bolstering recovery of workers’ stolen wages
  • Expanding workers’ rights to their employment records

A section-by-section summary of the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act can be found here.

A fact sheet on the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act can be found here.