Gonzalez Bill to Send Employers Who Intentionally Commit Wage Theft to Prison Passes Senate Labor Committee

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – (Monday, July 12, 2021) – Minimum wage violations in California account for nearly $2 billion in stolen wages from employees annually. Today, Assembly Bill 1003 by Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to strengthen the criminal penalties for employers who intentionally steal wages from their workers passed the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee with unanimous support. 

"Wage theft needs to be treated with the severity we would treat any other form of theft," Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. "Without real consequences in place to deter bad actors, companies will continue skirting labor laws and getting away with stealing from their workers without facing any accountability."
 
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that wage theft costs workers across the country up to $15 billion each year, making it more common than any other form of theft combined. A recent report by EPI suggests criminal prosecution of employer crimes against workers is likely to deter similar violations by other employers. Latinos, women, and immigrant workers make up the majority of wage theft victims in California.

Georgette Brotherson Hubbard, a licensed esthetician who previously worked at a beauty salon in Studio City, said her manager continually shorted her on hours over the course of six months. 

"Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is rampant in the beauty industry that employs many women and people of color," Hubbard said. "From my personal experience, I can say that wage theft and exploitation led to other forms of exploitation and harassment.” There is a great need for consequences for employers that practice wage theft so they don’t continue to exploit uninformed and vulnerable employees."
 

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  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.
 
For questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Mike Blount: Mike.Blount@asm.ca.gov