The Los Angeles City Council today instructed the City Attorney's Office to look for ways to prosecute employers who cheat workers on their paychecks.
The council voted 13-0 to approve a proposal from Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Paul Koretz to revive earlier attempts to enforce laws against wage theft.
Wage theft -- which occurs when employers pay less than the minimum wage, fail to pay overtime, misclassify employees as independent contractors or simply do not pay them -- comes to an estimated $26.2 million per week in Los Angeles, according to the Coalition Against Wage Theft.
The City Attorney's Office will work with police, the UCLA Downtown Labor Center and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to come up with an ordinance to "criminalize the practice of wage theft in the city ... and increase tracking and enforcement of wage theft."
Cedillo and Koretz said victims of wage theft would be able to report the violations to the city.
In Los Angeles, about 80 percent of low-wage workers are victims of wage theft, Koretz said.
"This gives a completely unfair business advantage to those who cheat their workers out of some or all of their wages," he said.
Wage theft hurts the local economy because workers have less to spend, and many employers are hurt because wage theft creates an unfair advantage for some businesses, according to Koretz and Cedillo.
"I believe it is critical that we revive this effort, and this time we make it happen. We protect not only those who are the lowest-earning workers among us, but we also protect our economy," Koretz said.
Tia Koonse, a legal and policy research manager for the UCLA Labor Center, said Los Angeles has more service workers than any other city, and "Angelenos experience more wage theft than any other city in the country."
--City News Service