- - Thursday, July 10, 2014

It is simple to point to D.C.’s protective laws and falsely claim that workers have recourse for wage theft, the act of denying an employee wages by withholding the stated rate of pay, overtime or other earned compensation (i.e., vacation). However, this is not the case. Victims of wage theft do not only have to deal with the Office of Wage and Hour Compliance’s lack of willingness to pursue claims, but also with the fact that they are left with little to no protection from retaliation by employers and little to no financial benefit if they win their case.

With restaurant workers among the most victimized and because two-thirds of employees find themselves facing at least one incident of wage theft every week, lack of recourse and lackadaisical wage-law enforcement leave victims trapped.

It is also simple to point to the methods by which employers cheat the system. These include misclassifying employees as independent contractors so as not to have to pay minimum wage, overtime or other protections afforded employees, and failing to keep records of wages because the Office of Wage and Hour Compliance will only seek higher wages if there is concrete proof. However, the truth of the matter is that even before victims can get to a point where they feel comfortable pursuing action against their employers, they are strongly dissuaded from doing so.

Along with the possibility of being fired for filing a claim, the fact that victims do not stand to gain much financial benefit from winning their case only allows for employers to continue their wage-theft practices, and this hurts everybody.


Without the proposed Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014 to either prevent wage theft from happening or to penalize and award the appropriate parties in case such theft does happen, workers are left to suffer the financial and emotional repercussions of wage theft with nowhere to turn.

Therefore, I urge the D.C. Council to pass the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014 during their next legislative session on July 14, with no further delays. It’s time to stand with workers and pay them the wages they have earned.

ALLISON ESQUEN-ROCA

Washington