Ferguson, Gossett propose wage protection legislation

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Metropolitan King County Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and Larry Gossett today proposed legislation to protect workers by prohibiting employers who steal wages from their employees from entering into business contracts with King County.

Wage theft includes such actions as withholding an employee’s last paycheck, stealing tips, forcing workers to work off the clock, paying employees less than the minimum wage, and not compensating employees for overtime.

“The County should not be in business with unscrupulous employers who willfully violate state wage laws,” said Councilmember Ferguson, Chair of the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Wage theft has a negative impact on workers and our economy. This ordinance establishes safeguards to make sure the County doesn’t reward employers that shortcut the law.”

“Employers who resort to these tactics are taking money away from working people and their families, and in this current economy, literally every dollar counts,” said Gossett, Chair of the County Council. “I want to ensure that these businesses never benefit from working with King County.”

Under the proposed ordinance, employers that willfully commit wage theft can be disbarred or suspended from contracting with the County. Under County Code, the Executive has authority to disbar or suspend a person or company from consideration for award of contracts for cause, such as embezzlement or conviction under antitrust law.

The Department of Labor and Industries handles all wage theft complaints in the State of Washington. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, there were more than 4,000 Wage Payment Act violation claims in 2010, an average of eleven each day, and 613 citations were issued for “willful” violations, meaning the employer knowingly and intentionally violated the law.


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