SACRAMENTO – Thursday, Assembly Bill 1003 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to send employers who intentionally steal from their workers to prison heads to Governor Newsom’s desk for consideration.
“Wage theft should be treated with the severity of any other type of theft, yet employers have long been able to get away with these crimes with little to no consequences,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “To deter the worst offenders, this bill sends a clear message: if you intentionally steal workers’ hard-earned wages to boost your profits, you will be held accountable.”
According to findings from a report by the Economic Policy Institute released in May of this year, passing laws to make wage theft a felony would make district attorneys more likely to pursue these cases, and would provide prosecutors more tools to go after employer crimes. The report suggests criminal prosecution of employer crimes against workers is likely to deter similar violations by other employers.
AB 1003 would increase the criminal penalties for intentional theft of wages, benefits or compensation –– over $950 for one employee and over $2,350 for two or more employees in any 12 consecutive month period –– punishable as grand theft. Prosecutors would ultimately decide if they want to charge the employers with a misdemeanor or felony.
In California, minimum wage violations alone account for nearly $2 billion in stolen wages from employees annually, with Latinos, women, and immigrant workers making up the majority of wage theft victims.
Alma Idelfonso, a former janitor who cleaned Cheesecake Factory restaurants in the San Diego area, said she was continually shorted on her paychecks by her employer.
“Because I wasn’t being paid properly, I had to sometimes choose between paying rent, buying groceries, or paying medical bills,” Idelfonso said. “I often faced the possibility of homelessness…AB 1003 would bring more justice to workers like me by holding irresponsible employers accountable with criminal charges — because what has happened to me is criminal.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, visit http://asm.ca.gov/gonzalez