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San Francisco Enacts Wage Theft Law

Saturday, September 17, 2011

 San Francisco has enforced stricter penalties for employers who violate minimum wage and overtime laws, and illegally deny workers their due wages.  The wage theft law, which went into effect Friday, was approved unanimously by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Ed Lee.  “People are not paying the legitimate minimum wage. They are not paying wages for overtime. They continue to undercut the wage loss here locally as well as federally,” said Mayor Lee.  Statewide, workers are losing $8 billion a year, and often don’t know it, according to Mayor Lee.  The majority of the victimized workers are immigrants in low-paying jobs, who are receiving wages below the legal minimum without being aware that they are entitled to overtime.  

The new law will strengthen the city’s ability to investigate violations and increase wage protections that commonly affect workers in several leading low-wage industries.  “Wage theft is a national epidemic that hurts workers, responsible employers, and the local economy,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP).  According to a 2009 report co-authored by NELP—Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers—more than two-thirds of low-wage workers surveyed reported some type of pay-related violation in the previous week. Almost half of those who stood up to complain suffered retaliation or threats of retaliation. Workers were cheated out of $56.4 million in earnings per week in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles alone, according to the report.  The new ordinance will enhance the power of the city’s Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (OLSE) to prosecute violations of the city’s minimum wage laws by allowing investigators to access payroll records, interview workers, and inspect labor sites at any time during business hours. In addition, employers will be required to inform workers of pending investigations, and increased penalties will be imposed against employers who retaliate against workers who complain. (click on link to read full story) 

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