Who Does the Wage Theft Protection Act Apply to?
The Fair Labor Standards Act protects employees from being exploited by their employers by establishing a minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. To support the FLSA, the Wage Theft Protection Act was put in place to protect employees from wage theft. Wage theft is a form of exploitation, and it can take many forms.
Your employer may be committing wage theft in the following ways:
- Paying less than minimum wage, unless they are tipped employees, who make $2.13 an hour
- Withholding overtime pay
- Forcing workers to perform off-the-clock work
- Withholding meal and rest breaks
If your employer did not pay you the minimum wage or did not compensate you for the overtime that you worked, you have a clear case for a Los Angeles workplace lawyer to sue them for compensation of your unpaid wages. If you win the case the judge should order your employer to compensate you.
However, if your employer has not given you any compensation, you may feel helpless following the court case. In the vein of protecting employees from unlawful practices, the state of California passed the Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011. This act forces the employer to be transparent from the moment an employee is hired, thus limiting their exploitation.
The Wage Theft Protection Act establishes the following:
- Criminalizes willful and/or knowledgeable violations for failure to compensate wages after a court judgment
- Requires restitution to be paid directly to the employee in addition to any civil penalties for failure to pay minimum wage
- Requires that written information on employee rights be provided to employees at the time of hire
- Extends the deadline for obtaining judgments on final penalty collection by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)
- Increases bond for employers with convictions or court judgments for unpaid employee wages
- Establishes minimum penalties for failure to comply with wage-related regulations
- Includes employee attorney’s fees and court costs in the court settlement
Attorneys for overtime violations in Los Angeles can tell you that employers rely on their employees’ ignorance. If an employee does not know that their employer is committing illegal labor practices, then they won’t report them to a lawyer or any kind of labor union. The Wage Theft Protection Act aims to prevent this ignorance by setting specific requirements regarding notification of labor practices.
Section 2810.5 of the Labor Code mandates that employers provide employees with information on their pay rates, how they are being paid, paydays, overtime rates, and any intent to withhold pay for meal or lodging allowances. This information should be given to the employee in printed form, unless the business gives the employee an electronic copy, in which the employee must provide confirmation that they have read and understand the materials.
Since the United States is a country of immigrants, the act also mandates that these notices be given in languages other than English, if necessary. Templates for Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other languages are available on the California Department of Industrial Relations website. Any updates in policy must also be communicated in the language these notices were originally given in at the time of hire.
Even though the authorities pledge to take action when wage theft complaints are made, employees may still be nervous to come forward. They may fear that once their employer finds out that they have spoken to lawyers, they will face some form of retaliation.
Unfortunately, workplace retaliation for reporting unfair and unlawful labor practices is not uncommon. Retaliation can come in the form of suddenly being let go, or it can be less obvious in the form of being transferred to a different branch or being given undesirable or tedious projects that no one else wants to do. Retaliation is against California law, and you should let your labor attorney know when you suspect you are being retaliated against, as the Wage Theft Protection Act has been updated to handle these claims.
After 34,000 wage theft claims were made, California expanded the power of the labor commissioner in order to implement more thorough inquiries when necessary. The labor commissioner can investigate a business’s employment practices, even without a retaliation claim from a worker, when the Industrial Welfare Commission is conducting a wage-claim investigation.
As you can see, the state of California has specific laws and regulations in place to ensure the fair treatment of employees by their employers. If you have any suspicion or concerns that your workplace is not treating its employees ethically, voice these concerns to an attorney who can help you investigate these claims. In the event that you need to officially report your employer, know that the Department of Labor and Industrial Welfare Commission will protect you in accordance with state law.