SACRAMENTO – When employers intentionally steal from their workers to boost their bottom line, they often face little or no consequences for their actions. Today, Assembly Bill 1003 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) passed the State Assembly with unanimous, bipartisan support. The bill would make it easier for prosecutors to go after bad actors by increasing criminal penalties for predatory employers who intentionally steal wages by fraudulent or other unlawful means.
“Companies that cheat workers out of their hard-earned wages should face real consequences for their egregious crimes, instead of being let off the hook time and time again with nothing more than a slap on the wrist,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “This bill will serve as a real deterrent to stealing employees hard-earned wages.”
According to a report released last week by the Economic Policy Institute, 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, particularly since civil enforcement often only recovers back wages owed to employees “essentially converting workers’ wages into an interest-free loan to the employer.”
AB 1003 would make the intentional theft of wages, tips, 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 have the authority to decide whether to charge an employer with a misdemeanor or felony.
Marta Orozco, a San Diego food worker, says she supports AB 1003. Orozco worked at a fast food restaurant for 14 years and was never paid overtime compensation.
“I had no life, I would never know when my day ended and if was going to be paid for all this extra work,” Orozco said.
She says she lost thousands of dollars in wages every single year and her employer was not held responsible. Orozco says she was eventually able to recuperate a fraction of what she was owed, but the employer and the employer’s business was able to get away from stealing from Marta and others works for over a decade.
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
According to the CALChamber:
AB 1003 is a bill that creates Criminal Liability for Good Faith Mistakes: Despite California’s onerous, confusing, and always changing wage and hour laws, proposes to criminalize small employers, managers, and supervisors, who in good faith, make a mistake in the application of the law, that even the Labor Commissioner and the courts disagree with on how to interpret.