For decades, wage theft has been a problem and it will continue to worsen if people do not bring attention to it. Labor lawyer Jon Wentz of Barkan Meizlish, LLP discussed a new wage theft ordinance passed in Columbus, Ohio on today’s episode of AWF Union Podcast.
Throughout the country workers are being exploited and cheated out of wages. City Council in Columbus, Ohio stepped up and was able to pass an ordinance establishing penalties for employers who commit wage theft.
Wentz said the conversation against wage theft began with local labor organizations and labor lawyers speaking out against the problem. People with roots in labor, such City Councilman Rob Dorans, have made this a priority on the legislative agenda.
Wage theft penalties
Wentz said the newly established penalties under the ordinance are hefty.
He noted that if an organization is found guilty of wage theft by a court or administrative agency, they lose the ability to work on city projects and also forfeit any city tax incentives for three years.
The new ordinance does not only apply to general contractors. Any contractor, including subcontractors are held to the standards established in the new ordinance.
Enforcing the ordinance
Wentz explained why wage theft is such a problem in Ohio and throughout the U.S. He said the state and federal governments simply do not care about the issue. There has been very little effort to curb wage theft on the state and national level.
In addition to establishing penalties for employers committing wage theft, an enforcement commission was established to enforce the new ordinance. This commission not only enforces the ordinance, but it can also recommend additional penalties for those who violate it.
Wentz said the commission is necessary as Ohio only has six enforcement agents to monitor the entire workforce of Ohio.
He added that Cincinnati, Ohio has a similar ordinance and that the people who worked on the Columbus ordinance stand ready to work with other cities to draft their own ordinance.