Contact: Rose King, 503-863-1363, Rose@brinkcomm.com
Senate Bill 1587 aims to stop dishonest employers, help collect back wages for workers cheated out of pay
(Salem, Ore.) – Today, legislation that would make it more difficult for companies to get away with cheating workers out of their pay was among the first bills to be introduced in the 2016 Oregon Legislative Session. Senate Bill 1587—sponsored by Senator Michael Dembrow—now awaits a hearing. The bill is one of three issues that Fair Shot For All, a coalition of more than 30 community groups, labor unions and racial justice organizations in Oregon, has prioritized for the upcoming session. The others include ending profiling and raising the minimum wage.
“The challenges working Oregonians face in caring for and supporting their families are magnified when they can’t even rely on the wages they’ve rightfully and fairly earned,” said Senator Dembrow. “Wage theft hurts Oregonian families, and it hurts our economy,”
“For decades, workers have seen their wages unfairly withheld by some unethical employers, and they have had little legal recourse,” said Senator Ginny Burdick “This legislation works to change that, sending a strong message to intentional and excessive violators that they will be held accountable for shortchanging workers.”
Oregon law doesn’t always protect the workers who experience wage theft, which occurs when employers do any of the following: pay less than minimum wage; do not pay overtime; deny meal and break periods; pay for fewer hours than an employee has worked; or simply don’t pay at all.
“Unfortunately, I know all too well what it means to be cheated,” said Darrin Boyce, a sheet metal worker from Portland who has been a victim of wage theft more than once in his career. “It’s happened to me and it’s happened to my friends. We have families to support. When my employer doesn’t pay me for all my time, we are left struggling to get by.”
For a worker earning minimum wage, being denied just half an hour’s worth of wages each day adds up to a loss of more than $1,400 a year. For families struggling to get by, that can be the difference between paying rent on time and facing eviction.
“It’s time to stop workplace abuses that leave Oregonians and their families shortchanged and struggling to make ends meet,” said Tom Chamberlain, President of Oregon AFL-CIO and member of Fair Chance For All. “When Oregonians don’t receive the wages that they’ve rightfully earned, those devastating effects ripple not only throughout workers’ families, but throughout our communities.”
Wage theft happens to workers in all industries. From retail, restaurants, and grocery stores, to domestic work, construction and personal services—Oregon workers report an average of $4.7 million every year in stolen wages. Many more don’t report violations out of fear of retaliation. Women, people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers are more vulnerable to wage theft.
Even when workers go through the difficult process of winning a wage theft claim, many can’t recover the money they are owed. Between 2010-2013, BOLI ruled on 3,303 claims of stolen wages totaling $6.2 million. However, of those claims, employers only paid 28 percent of stolen wages back to workers.
Senate Bill 1587 will:
- Give workers additional tools to expose employer wrongdoing,
- Reduce the barriers that prevent workers from getting help and recovering the wages they are owed, and
- Help build a foundation for comprehensive wage theft reform in 2017
Text of the bill is available online: