California labor commissioner raising awareness of wage theft

Frank S. Clowney III

The office of the California Labor Commissioner recognizes that when employers fail to pay employees their due wages, a negative impact is made upon the employees and their families. Federal and state employment laws exist in part to help ensure workers receive payment for their labor. To that end, the commissioner’s office wants to create more awareness of the issue of wage theft and to do so they are initiating a new campaign.

The California labor commissioner wants all employers and employees in the state to know that the non-payment of earned wages is a criminal offense. She also says that employees on the lower end of the pay spectrum are especially vulnerable to abuses regarding minimum wage pay rates, overtime pay and meal breaks.

The commissioner was in Fresno recently to promote the new campaign, which has as its slogan, “Wage Theft is a Crime.” While speaking, she cited examples of especially egregious efforts on behalf of employers to shortchange workers. These examples included a farmer, who paid workers a rate well short of minimum wage and a restaurant owner, who had 60 employees while claiming to have only 12.

In response to such shameful and illegal actions, the Labor Commissioner’s Office fined offending California employers a total $51 million in 2012. But the commissioner believes that in order to really address the issue of wage theft, serial offenders must face jail time.

But perhaps the strongest point made by the commissioner came when she stated that the importance of work extends beyond wages. Dignity and the pursuit of an improved life are also of great importance.

Still, employee dignity and life improvement opportunities can be greatly affected by the payment of fair wages. Should you ever be denied the payment you earned, you should consider finding someone who can help you recover what is rightfully yours. A California labor lawyer who understands the full scope of your rights may be able to help you gain your denied wages and maintain your dignity.

Source: The Fresno Bee, “State launches crackdown on wage theft,” Robert Roddriguez, May 6, 2014