New Law Tightens Workers Protection Against Stolen Wages

The Wage Theft Bill, which Governor Perry just signed into law, expands the ability of police to arrest employers who cheat workers out of their pay. That still leaves the question of how to encourage such workers to come forward. KUHF business reporter Andrew Schneider has the story.

The official charge on the Texas Penal Code is called “theft of service.” Until recently, the law did not allow police to pursue such cases against employers who made even minimal payments to their workers. The Wage Theft Bill closes that loophole.

Emily Timm is a policy analyst with Workers Defense Project, a community organization that helped to draft the bill.

“Wage theft occurs across the board. It’s sort of the way business is done in particular industries, in particular, the construction industry. A recent study released by the University of Texas found that one in every five construction workers in Austin had experienced wage theft.”

The practice tends to target workers who are easily intimidated, who have reason to fear losing their jobs or worse. That makes undocumented workers particularly vulnerable. But Timm is adamant: workers should not shy from reporting wage theft for any reason.

“In all of the years that that law has been in effect, I’ve never seen a case where the police have asked the immigration status of a worker. Workers who are crime victims should not have that fear. I believe it’s an unwarranted fear, in that it’s very important that workers — both documented [and] undocumented — that all workers come forward and report when they’ve had their wages wrongfully stolen from them.”

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...