As Los Angeles County prepares to vote on a proposed minimum wage increase, two members of the Board of Supervisors moved Tuesday to curb illegal efforts to deny employees their full pay.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas won support for an analysis of the county's authority to regulate wage theft locally and to enforce municipal, state and federal laws concerning the improper withholding of pay or benefits.
FOR THE RECORD: In the July 8 California section, an article about an effort to combat wage theft said that L.A. County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas had won support for their motion to explore ways to crack down on businesses that fail to pay full wages to workers. Although they introduced the motion, supervisors postponed voting on it until July 21, at Solis' request.
The board also directed its lobbyists to seek increases in state and federal funding for enforcement.
The ways employers can shortchange workers include refusing to pay the legally required minimum wages or earned overtime, denying meal and rest breaks and misclassifying employees as independent contractors, according to the motion.
Solis and Ridley-Thomas cited a 2014 UCLA Labor Center report that found 655,000 low-wage workers in the county experience at least one wage or benefit theft violation in a typical week.
"Victims are disproportionately immigrants, women and people of color," the two supervisors said in their motion.
"As with many crimes, the key to deterrence is enforcement," they said, adding that state and federal agencies lack staff to diligently enforce wage laws. They noted jurisdictions such as Miami-Dade County and Seattle have adopted their own wage-theft laws.
Leaders of Raise the Wage campaign issued a statement praising the board's action.
Rusty Hicks of the County Federation of Labor and Laphonza Butler of Service Employees International Union California said they "look forward to working" with board members to ensure "workers are getting paid the hours they work and nothing less."
Officials recently agreed to increase the minimum wage for workers in the city of Los Angeles to $15 an hour by 2020. Later this month, supervisors are expected to vote on a similar base wage boost in county unincorporated areas.
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