Taking unprecedented action to address wage theft in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to establish a program that would receive, investigate and resolve claims of wage theft, as well as conduct education and outreach to both workers and employers.
Acting on a motion by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board called for the creation of a Wage Enforcement Program amid research showing more than 600,000 wage theft violations occur in the County each week.
Wage theft occurs when a worker is paid less than the minimum wage, is denied overtime, is paid only in tips, does not receive meal and rest breaks, has illegal paycheck deductions, is coerced to work off the clock, or is misclassified as an independent contractor, intern or volunteer.
“It is imperative that Los Angeles County crack down on unscrupulous employers because wage theft is both illegal and immoral, victimizing not only workers but their families,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.
“By creating a Wage Enforcement Program, the first of its kind in the County, we can help ensure that workers are paid fairly,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “It also levels the playing field for responsible employers.”
A 2014 report from the UCLA Labor Center found that, in a given week, 655,000 low-wage workers in the County experience at least one violation. County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai said, in a separate report, “Although enforcement of wage theft has historically been the responsibility of State and Federal agencies, they have insufficient resources to address the problem.” With a PowerPoint presentation, the CEO made the case that the County has regulatory tools for wage enforcement.
In their motion, Supervisors Solis and Ridley-Thomas said, “it is clear that existing enforcement mechanisms are insufficient and that the County must follow the lead of the ten other local governments within California that have created their own wage theft enforcement mechanism.”
The motion designated the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs as the entity responsible for enforcing the County’s Minimum Wage Ordinance, and also called for the immediate implementation of the Wage Enforcement Program.
Supervisor Solis noted victims of wage theft are disproportionately immigrants, women and people of color.
“Immigrants suffer minimum wage violations at twice the rate of their native-born counterparts. African-Americans suffer wage theft at twice the rate of their white counterparts. More than 50 percent of immigrant Latinas in the County earn less than the minimum wage,” said Supervisor Solis. “Enforcement is key to stopping this crime and helping many of our County residents.”