Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.
Wage theft is an issue we encounter all too frequently in our cases, particularly in situations with undocumented workers or others who may be paid “under the table.” They often have their wages under-reported to the Department of Labor and Industries, decreasing their compensation rate under the claim. It can be very difficult to prove the correct wage rate if insufficient documentation of payments exists.
Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and the author of “Wage Theft in America,” recently spoke at Duke Divinity School and then at N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham, N.C. Ms. Bobo, who was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace Award in 2012 (other recipients are John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr.), has a simple reason for the work she does: as a person of faith, she recognizes injustice and seeks to correct it. Wage theft, which is defined as stealing from workers what they have rightfully earned, is not only illegal it is immoral. She is simply trying to get people to do something about it.
In September a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff.
At N.C Central law school, Bobo spoke to students about waiters not getting tips, even though the restaurant collected those tips when the bill was paid, and asked if anyone in the room had experienced that type of theft. Indeed, one student shared a story about working at an exclusive club in South Carolina where that practice was routine. After reporting the problem and getting nowhere, he finally gave up and quit. He is still bitter about it. In September, a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff. Small amounts can add up for the employer.
Bobo gave some action items to the audience that I wanted to share with you. She said we need to:
- start recognizing the seriousness of the problem;
- start getting attention about the problem in order to fix it;
- stay focused; and
- if necessary, cross of the lines of our comfort zone.
For more information about Interfaith Worker Justice, go to: www.iwj.org/