Wage Theft? You Need a Lawyer, and Here's Why
KCRW released a report, the first in a series covering the investigation of labor abuses in the Los Angeles restaurant industry. This will be the first of many such reports detailing a months-long investigation into what appear to be endemic labor violations.
California's multi-billion dollar food service industry employs one-in-ten Californians and is responsible for a similar percentage of total wage theft claims. Evidence suggests, though, that wage theft and other violations occur much more frequently than they are reported.
According to the report, restaurant owners take advantage of low- wage and undocumented workers to lower costs. Employees often work long hours with no overtime. And violations of mandatory meal and rest breaks are part of the status quo. All in violation of California labor law.
On top of this, they report that 27% of prep cooks, line cooks, and dishwashers are paid less than minimum wage. These "back of house" workers are being hit the hardest by employers who think their labor is worth less.
The restaurant industry employs a large percentage of low wage workers, and knowing this, they push their advantages to the limit. The owners know that their employees will be unfamiliar with labor standards, and will have a hard time finding an lawyer, so they safely pad their pockets with stolen wages.
And, for the most part, they've been getting away with it.
That's because, while California has some of the strictest labor laws in the country, 83% of workers who win their wage claims never see any of that money. (according to the UCLA labor center) Which indicates a big gap between legislation and enforcement.
According to KCRW, there are lots of legal loopholes that the bosses use to avoid paying up. For instance, a restaurant can close, change names, and then re-open, and avoid paying court-ordered back wages; even if the owners are the same people. If that doesn't work, they shift funds to friends and family members to avoid paying.
What they are counting on is that, even for those who win their wage claims, their employees will tire of the game and then give up on the hope of collecting back pay.
At the end of the day, it's just too much time and effort for employees who have to work 60 hour weeks. And it's the owners who have the time and money to take their employees on a cat and mouse chase.
This is why it's important to seek out someone who will represent your wage theft claim, and who will work to hold your unscrupulous employer accountable.
As always, thank you for reading. If you have a wage theft claim, or another legal inquiry, don't leave it up to chance, talk to one of our knowledgeable employment lawyers today.