SACRAMENTO, September 27, 2021 – Too often, employers who commit wage theft face little or no consequences for their actions. Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s Assembly Bill 1003 to specify that the intentional theft of wages or tips by employers is punishable as grand theft.
“I’ve never understood why we don’t hold employers who steal from their workers responsible for their crimes, the same way we treat any other serious theft,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “I’m hopeful this bill will finally change that and make bad actors think twice before treating wage theft like a simple business decision. This law sends a clear message: if you intentionally steal workers’ hard-earned wages, you can actually go to prison.”
In California, minimum wage violations cost workers close to $2 billion annually, or an average of $3,400 per year. AB 1003 would make the intentional theft of wages, tips, benefits or compensation –– over $950 for one employee and over $2,350 for two or more employees in any 12 consecutive month period –– punishable as grand theft. Prosecutors would have the authority to decide whether to charge an employer with a misdemeanor or felony.
According to a report released in May by the Economic Policy Institute, laws that made the crime of wage theft a felony increased the likelihood that district attorneys would pursue more cases and provided prosecutors a more effective means to go after egregious employer crimes.