Wage theft, unfortunately, continues to be a significant problem here in Texas. Wage theft is the occurrence of employers neglecting to pay proper wages to workers. This might be by failing to pay the minimum wage or legal overtime rate. It can also be paying workers less than promised or less than the amount owed. The University of Texas recently reported that 20 percent of construction workers are victims of wage theft as are 50 percent of contingent workers.
Lawmakers in the state Senate are currently working on a bill that might better protect workers in Texas from wage theft. The bill clarifies when the Texas Workforce Commission can fine employers for failing to pay proper wages in bad faith.
In some cases, wage theft is not in bad faith, such as when a clerical error results in the underpayment of wages or an employer misunderstands federal and state wage laws.
When employers do act in bad faith, as is often the case, the Texas Workforce Commission may fine employers as much as $1,000. However, this civil penalty is pretty rare due to confusion about when it is allowed.
The future of that bill is unknown. Regardless of whether it ultimately becomes law, workers in Texas can seek legal recourse when they are underpaid by their employers. It is sometimes possible to file a lawsuit against one’s employer in order to obtain back wages and damages when wage theft occurs. It is important to proceed with caution and seek legal guidance when pursuing such a claim, because sometimes employers will retaliate against employees who file claims.
Source: San Antonio Business Journal, “Senate committee OKs worker wage-protection bill,” James Jeffrey, March 20, 2013
- Our law firm helps victims of wage theft recover compensation for their damages and hold employers accountable. More information is available on our Houston Pay Dispute page.