New Legislation Would Protect Workers from Wage Theft

ST. PAUL, Minn.− Workers can see their wages stolen in many ways: Not receiving the minimum wage or compensation for overtime. Not receiving their final paycheck after leaving a job. Not being paid at all.


“It’s a problem that happens more often than most people think,” said Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the labor federation representing some 300,000 workers.  Now the fed is throwing its weight behind state legislation to do something about it.


Hunter attended a news conference in mid-February to back legislation to crack down on “wage theft” by employers. It would increase penalties for violators and provide outreach to educate workers on their rights.


No specific figures are available for Minnesota, but the Economic Policy Institute estimates that wage theft costs American workers more than $30 billion per year.


To put that into perspective, all of the robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts in the nation cost victims less than $14 billion in 2012, according to the FBI, Hunter said.

The legislation, by State Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, and State Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, would:


* Increase fines for wage theft from double to triple the amount owed to the employee.

* Provide criminal penalties for employers who willfully or repeatedly violate this law.

* Ensure wage theft complaints are confidential.

* Extend the statute of limitations on wage theft to six years.

* Allow the state to revoke a business license for non-compliance or multiple abuses in paying back lost wages.

* Require employers who violate the law to post a bond to prove they have the ability to pay wages.

* Provide for grants to community organizations to help educate workers about their rights and how to recoup lost wages.

* Create a wage recovery fund from penalties paid as a contingency to ensure workers receive the wages owed to them.

* Protect workers from employer retaliation, and

* Bring Minnesota into conformity with the federal government by extending overtime pay after 40 hours to all employees deemed eligible under federal law.


“The legislation we are proposing sends a clear message to employers who try to cheat their employees out of the wages for which they have worked,” said Melin, who also spoke at the news conference.

Source: PAI