Legislation to Combat National Wage Theft
Each year millions of workers throughout the county are victims of wage theft. To combat wage theft, several states have passed legislation that supplement federal law to strengthen workers’ rights and prevent wage theft. Most recently, the states of Colorado and Minnesota passed legislation that will create harsh criminal penalties for employers who fail to pay employees proper wages. In order to ensure you are not a victim of wage theft, it is critical for all employees, including waiters and waitresses, to understand these efforts to combat wage theft as well as how to spot common signs that your employer is stealing wages from you.
Legislative Action in Colorado
On May 16, 2019, Colorado’s governor signed HB 19-1267 into law, which created state-based penalties for failure to pay wages.
Under the new laws, nonpayments of wages is classified as a felony when the amount of wages stolen is greater $2,000. The exact penalties that an employer can expect to pay vary based on the amount involved:
- For $2,000 to $4,999, an employer can end up facing a maximum of one and a half years in prison and a maximum of $100,000 in fines
- For $5,000 to $19,999, an employer can end up facing a maximum of three years in prison and a maximum of $100,000 in fines
- For $20,000 to $99,999, an employer can end up facing a maximum of six years in prison and a maximum of $500,000 in fines
- For $100,000 to $999,999, an employer can end up facing a maximum of 12 years in prison and a maximum of $750,000 in fines
- For amounts over $1,000,000, an employer can end up facing a maximum of 24 years in prison and a maximum of $1,000,000 in fines
These changes were reported by a study that found that parties who commit human trafficking often commit other crimes like wage theft. The Colorado General Assembly also found that wage theft costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars.
Similar Legislation by Minnesota
Two weeks after Colorado signed this bill, Minnesota passed an even stricter bill that enforces felony penalties for parties who commit wage theft. Under this legislation, wage theft includes any offense that is taken with the intent to defraud, which includes:
- Directly (or indirectly) causing an employee to provide a receipt for wages greater than that which was paid to the worker for services rendered.
- Directly (or indirectly) demanding from workers any rebate or refund from the wages that are owed to the worker.
- Failure to pay a worker all payments required by law.
- Making it appear that the wages paid to any worker were greater than the amount actually paid to the worker.
Minnesota also created a series of elevated penalties similar to those implemented by Colorado.
Quick Tips for Victims of Wage Theft in Restaurants
Receiving payment for work performed is a vital part of an employee’s contract with an employer. Payment provides necessary financial support to workers and their families, which is why wage theft is inexcusable in any form.
All restaurant workers should be on the lookout for wage theft in restaurants. Some of the most common signs that wage theft in restaurants includes:
- Employers who ask you to work off the clock, which in many cases is likely a sign that your employer is actually asking you to work for free.
- There are some types of deductions that cannot lawfully be taken from a restaurant worker’s paycheck, such as payments for uniforms, walked tabs, cash shortages, glass breakage fees, and many other types of deductions for expenses.
- Illegal tip pools or tip sharing arrangements.
- See here and here for list of common violations for restaurant employees
Speak with an Experienced Wage Theft Attorney
If you are a worker that has questions about your wages or the laws that protect workers’ wages, you should not hesitate to speak with one of our knowledgeable wage attorneys. Contact Herrmann Law today to schedule an initial consultation. Call us at 817-479-9229 or submit your case online (here) and we will contact you.