State law mandates that employers pay workers all the money they are owed. While most employers pay workers their due, some employers deliberately cheat employees out of hard-earned money. Employers do this by altering time sheets, forcing employees to work "off the clock," failing to pay overtime wages, denying lunch breaks or simply not paying employees for their time.
When this occurs, it is wage theft. Not only is it illegal, but wronged employees have the option to file a lawsuit against their employer to recover their wages owed.
Bill seeks to strengthen worker protections
Unfortunately, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries received nearly 7,000 wage and hour complaints in 2015, indicating that the problem is widespread in the state, despite existing laws protecting Oregonians from wage and hour theft.
This year, lawmakers introduced a bill that should help. Senate Bill 1587 will provide additional protections from wage and hour theft. The bill has passed both houses of the Oregon State Legislature and is currently awaiting the Governor's signature.
Senate Bill 1587 will:
- Modify information provided to employees for each pay period
- Require employers to maintain time and pay records of a terminated employee for three years
- Provide additional funds to enforce existing wage and hour laws
- Prohibit a contractor, subcontractor or agent from intentionally failing to pay the prevailing rate of wage
Fighting wage theft like playing "Whack-A-Mole"
The bill's sponsor, state Senator Michael Dembrow, said in an interview with NPR affiliate KLCC that fighting wage theft through drafting new laws is a bit "like playing Whack-A-Mole." Unethical employers are continually finding new ways to skirt wage and hour laws, according to Dembrow. He hopes the new bill will help employees obtain their deserved compensation.
Help is critical for Oregonians, especially those who face challenges in caring for and supporting their families. When workers cannot rely on wages they've rightfully and fairly earned, the challenges they face are magnified.
An employment law attorney can help
This blog is not legal advice. If you think your employer may be violating the law by not paying what you've earned, get legal help. The best way to take action is to talk with an experienced employment law attorney.