Proposed legislation could expose wage theft

Texas workers can face serious problems on the job, including violation of wage and hour laws. The Texas Workforce Commission has identified thousands of businesses that are engaged in wage theft each year. In some cases, workers are falsely classified as independent contractors when they are actually employees; in other cases, companies refuse to pay out overtime wages or any pay at all. Each year, companies are ordered to pay around $10 million in back wages to workers who file complaints. Even then, around half of the judgments are never paid, and there are few consequences for the recalcitrant companies.

While a lien can be issued in some cases, it may do little to change the practices of companies repeatedly cited for wage and hour violations. One state legislator is proposing a bill that could publicly highlight companies held responsible for wage theft by the workforce commission. In particular, it would list firms that refused to pay out back wages even after being ordered to do so. The information is already public record, but it can only be obtained by people making formal open records requests rather than an online, searchable database widely available to browsers.

The proponents of House Bill 48 say that it could help many Texas workers. For example, people seeking jobs may be able to steer clear of untrustworthy firms while consumers would be able to know more about the ethical practices of companies in the market, helping them to make decisions.

The bill has found bipartisan support. Unfortunately, too many workers continue to face short paychecks across the state. People who have been subjected to violations of wage and hour laws may want to work with an employment law attorney to seek compensation for their damages.

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