Gonzalez Bill to Send Perpetrators of Intentional Wage Theft to Prison Passes Assembly Public Safety Committee

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – (Tuesday, April 20, 2021) – Today, the Assembly Public Safety Committee passed on a 6 - 0 vote State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s (D-San Diego) Assembly Bill 1003, which increases criminal penalties for predatory employers who intentionally steal their workers’ hard-earned wages by fraudulent or other unlawful means.

"For too long, companies have gotten away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist or a minor fine for cheating workers out of their hard-earned wages. This bill is about deterring those egregious actors that intentionally steal from workers to pad their own bottom line,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. "AB 1003 makes sure the consequences for committing wage theft are as serious as the crime itself." 
 
AB 1003 would make the intentional theft of wages, benefits or compensation –– over $950 for one employee and over $2,350 for two or more employees in any 12 consecutive month period –– punishable as grand theft. Prosecutors would ultimately decide if they want to charge the employers with a misdemeanor or felony.
 
“The workers who experience wage theft are forced to live in fear, while the criminal contractors and labor brokers who exploit them boldly flaunt their criminal activity,” said Javier Santizo, a construction worker and victim of wage theft. “The message workers are currently hearing is, ‘No one is coming to help you.’ That message robs workers of hope and empowers the criminals stealing their wages. AB 1003 changes the power dynamic –– giving a voice to workers –– restoring dignity and security. Increasing accountability will provide the justice currently lacking for the most vulnerable amongst us.”
 
Latinos, women, and immigrant workers make up the majority of wage theft victims. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that wage theft costs workers across the country up to $15 billion each year in minimum wage violations alone, compared to $12.7 billion in losses per year from robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and auto theft combined. In California, minimum wage violations alone account for nearly $2 billion in stolen wages from employees annually.
 
A 2015 study conducted by the Little Hoover Commission urged the Legislature to reassess existing penalties for white collar crimes and make changes to ensure that rewards from breaking the law do not outweigh the penalties imposed if caught breaking the law. AB 1003 targets employers who intentionally make calculated risks to steal from their employees, knowing the fine will be less costly than paying their workers the money they have earned. 
 
For questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Mike Blount: Mike.Blount@asm.ca.gov   
 
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, visit http://asm.ca.gov/gonzalez