This week Princeton, New Jersey, passed an ordinance that requires contractors who wish to do business in town to be in compliance with federal and state wage theft laws.
Wage theft, according to the ordinance, includes not paying sufficient overtime, paying less than an amount agreed upon, not paying for all hours worked, paying less than the minimum wage, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, or not paying them at all, Howard said. This resolution would apply to the landscaping business but there are plans to expand it to construction and restaurant companies as well. In order to get a license to operate in the town, companies would need to read and sign off on an acknowledgement of the wage theft law.
Princeton is the second municipality in the state to address wage theft through local ordinance; New Brunswick was the first.
In Princeton, the Human Services Department, Police Department, and Latin American Legal Defense Fund streamlined a process for workers reporting wage theft, including a new process that allows workers to seek help at any of these agencies.
As part of a broader training on immigration issues, the police department invited state labor officials and representatives of New Labor, a New Brunswick organization focused on immigrant workers, to train the Princeton force earlier this year on wage theft laws and how to handle complaints.
Craig Garcia of New Labor said that thousands of dollars in unpaid wages have been recovered since the ordinance was adopted in New Brunswick. “It really does have a powerful effect,” he said.
Like the Princeton group, CoFiA’s wage theft committee reports that even though federal and state labor laws apply to all workers, people are often afraid to report theft because they fear losing their jobs or are afraid of being reported by the employer to ICE. This is a threat employers frequently make, although they know that ICE has no jurisdiction in wage theft cases.
CoFiA regularly provides information to workers about how to protect themselves against wage theft, including providing booklets in which they can keep records of hours worked and the location of jobs. OSHA training is also provided to help workers learn how to be safe on the job, and what constitutes violation of their rights as workers. Our wage theft committee also actively works to recovers wages that have not been paid, using whatever means necessary to achieve success–from “pricking the conscience” of the employer to reporting him or her to the Departmen of Labor.