State Assembly passes controversial wage theft bill

"We have a long-standing history of wage theft in California," said Assemblyman Mark Stone.

A bill that would give victims of wage theft the power to file property liens against employers passed the state Assembly on Wednesday amid strong debate.

AB 2415 by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) is sponsored by the Service Employees Internatonal Union, which argues that low-wage workers need more effective means to to recover back pay.

Liens are needed because many workers who win claims for back pay from the state Labor Commissioner's Office often can't collect their awards.

"We have a long-standing history of wage theft in California,"  Stone said during the floor debate. "It's time to give employees, especially the lowest-paid employees in the state of California, a real tool to address this problem."

Opponents, led by the California Chamber of Commerce, emphasized that they don't condone employers who illegally withhold pay. However, they contended that liens could cripple businesses by making it hard to sell or transfer property, even if the wage claim remains unproven.

The upshot, said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point), would be "a litigation nightmare."

The bill now moves to the state Senate.


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