By Jeanna Korzun and Danjha Leon
Wage theft in America is a very real threat to thousands of workers across America, and Washington DC is no exception. There have been several cases where workers had been paid unfairly and mislead from their original contracts. While the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014 introduced much-needed improvements to the city’s laws, its effects have not been felt by all workers.
Wage theft includes more than hourly pay below minimum wage, it includes uncompensated overtime, payments for work made after the promised deadline, and “failure to properly classify workers as employees instead of independent contractors.” The latter of these definitions is the most notorious for evading the law, as the classification of independent contractors has specific requirements. Often, hiring companies use this term to evade taxes and certain requirements for work that would otherwise be provided for traditional employees. When this manipulation of the law is paired with the coercion of workers who either do not know or do not understand the law, wage theft will continue to occur.
A prime example is the case of Power Design Inc. a Florida based company that does commercial electrical work in 28 states and the District of Columbia that has been sued numerous times for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, both here in D.C. and around the country. The component of the alleged lawsuits suggests that Power Design utilizes a competitive business model which misclassify employees, stealing wages, and exploit low-paid workers.
There are cases of contractors that worked the George Washington University, had issues related to wage theft. For example, A&D Drywall, drywall contractor pays their employees cash and gave no overtime. Dynamic Contracting, who uses labor brokers, is currently being sued for wage theft. Gilbane Construction, or GC, is also being sued for wage theft for work done around the city. Mid Atlantic Manganaro, which constructed buildings at GW, they are also being sued for wage theft (Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters).
Ultimately, the solution requires more comprehensive legislation, such as the inclusion of spread information to community members on what means wage theft and how to address it. Additionally, workers must be made aware of their rights, the D.C. government should aggressively oversee and prosecute wage theft offenders. Moreover, companies ought to establish internal regulators to specifically take charge of ensuring that each worker knows their rights and that each company is complying with the law. The Just Pay Campaign, led by DC Jobs for Justice, is working to improve policy and implementation of it plus leading a campaign to highlight enforcement failures by taking on bad actors (DC Jobs for Justice).
If you or someone you know suspects that they are a victim of wage theft, please refer to Know your Rights and Wage Theft websites to better identify the case and to proceed accordingly.
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