When business is booming and California employees are putting in more than 40 hours a week, they expect to get overtime pay, but what happens if they do not? And besides not getting the pay they deserve, what happens if workers cannot take regular breaks or have time off for vacation?
The UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education explains that situations like those above constitute wage theft. When companies require workers to put in more time than they receive adequate compensation for, those organizations in effect are stealing from their employees.
The center has some startling statistics to show wage theft is an extensive problem in California. With discriminatory pay rates – that is, lower pay for women and other minorities – also counting as theft, the center states a staggering “8 out of 10 Los Angeles workers [experienced] wage theft” in 2014.
In 2017, California wage-theft claims totaled nearly 34,000, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, and that number does not represent the dozens of other claims that no one felt courageous enough to report. Undocumented workers can often fall into that category, being especially cautious about drawing undue attention.
The SHRM also points out that California leaders are working hard to remedy the problems with wage theft in the state. New laws create stiffer penalties for employers who do not pay their workers fairly or in a timely manner. The labor commissioner also now has the authority to investigate specific conditions, and employers may be responsible for more fees than previously garnered when they fail to comply with court orders.