Harrisburg – April 2, 2019 – Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) today proposed a pair of bills to help protect the paychecks of Pennsylvania workers by targeting wage theft, an act that costs employees across the commonwealth millions of dollars each year.
Wage theft occurs when employers misclassify their workers, denying them pay and access to benefits; some pay below the minimum or promised wage; some make illegal deductions or steal tips from tipped employees; while others simply fail to pay for all hours worked or, in extreme cases, do not pay at all.
According to Community Legal Services Philadelphia, wage theft cost workers across Pennsylvania $258 million in 2013. A national study by the Temple Sheller Center for Social Justice found that on average 15 percent of a low-wage worker’s pay is stolen, amounting to between $988 million to $1.6 billion annually across the U.S.
“We have to strengthen our laws to protect working people and their right to get paid for the work they do,” Sen. Hughes said. “Employees need to know the law ensures they are paid for all hours worked, including overtime. Beyond that, we have to send a clear message to unscrupulous businesses that we will not tolerate wage theft.”
Senate Bill 519 would require employers post information about the Wage Payment and Collection Law, including what wage theft is and worker remedies for violations. This requirement would be similar to what employers are required to post for the minimum wage. Employers who fail to post this information would be punished with a fine up to $500.
Senate Bill 520 would suspend or disbar violators of Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law from participating in commonwealth procurement contracts. Similar provisions exist for employers who violate the Minimum Wage Law and the proposal is modeled after bipartisan legislation recently enacted in state of Washington.
Recent examples of wage theft include owners of two Japanese restaurants in Lansdale and Philadelphia paying out a $1 million settlement. The restaurants had been accused of stealing tips and failing to pay overtime. Fox Bindery Inc. also had to pay out nearly $600,000 in back wages for failing to pay workers minimum wage, as well as overtime compensation.
“Too many people are being taken advantage of by the employers they trust,” Sen. Hughes said. “These are simple, commonsense proposals that will show workers the law is on their side. Worker protections have been under attack for a number of years and it is time we go back to policy that puts working people ahead of business interests.”