Wage theft is a continuing problem for hardworking Americans, robbing them of the duly earned pay they need to provide for their families. But one state is cracking down.
New Jersey Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) signed into law last week legislation that enhances enforcement of the state’s wage and hour laws by holding employers accountable for unpaid wages, benefits or overtime through increased damages and fines.
“We must ensure that every hardworking individual in New Jersey receives the wages they worked hard to earn,” Oliver said. “I am proud to sign this legislation that will protect the rights of workers, furthering the Murphy-Oliver administration’s commitment to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey through protecting the right to earn a fair wage.”
Under the new law, a company that does not pay all the wages owed can be fined up to $1,000, face up to 90 days in jail, or both. Penalties climb for multiple offenses and a repeated pattern of non-payment could result in a crime punished by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
First introduced seven years ago, the measure’s victorious outcome shows it sometimes takes a real commitment to pass important legislation. Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D) called the new law addressing wage theft the strongest in the nation.
The Teamsters hail the outcome. This union has been front-and-center in its fight against wage theft, often caused by misclassification, across the nation. In California, the union has been at the forefront of the fight against port truck driving firms like XPO Logistics who insist their drivers are contractors and not entitled to fair pay and benefits.
Businesses that break the law by gypping their employees of their well-earned pay shouldn’t be shrugged off by elected officials – they should be vilified. It’s time for lawmakers everywhere to follow the lead of New Jersey and workers across the country on this issue.