Wage theft enforcement bill heads to governor

Legislative Hall in Dover.

The Delaware House passed legislation Thursday that aims to combat wage theft.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark and Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Christiana, Senate Bill 35(S) defines specific violations of wage payment and collection laws and provides specific penalties for these violations, including a new criminal offense of wage theft, with a mechanism for the state Department of Labor to refer completed investigations to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

The bill passed both houses with yes votes from both parties.

“Circumventing state laws to pay people less or ‘under the table’ or to avoid paying their fair share of taxes is unfair to workers and to the state. It can have damaging effects if a worker sustains a workplace injury or needs unemployment compensation,” said  Osienski. “By clearly defining wage theft, we will correct this issue and ensure that employers are meeting their obligations and not shortchanging workers or the state.”

Wage theft can include an employer’s failure to pay the minimum wage or overtime, an employer’s refusal to pay a worker for all hours worked, asking workers to work off the clock, employee misclassification, failure to properly withhold state and federal taxes from an employee, or employing an individual without reporting the individual’s employment to all appropriate government agencies.

By clearly defining wage theft, Delaware employers will know what actions violate state law. Employees also will be protected against personal risk in the areas of unemployment compensation and workplace injuries.

“This legislation is a big win for Delaware workers — and Delaware taxpayers,” said Walsh, prime sponsor of SB 35(S). “No employer should get away with short-changing their employees. This bill gives the Departments of Labor and Justice the appropriate mechanisms to combat against wage theft.”

SB 35(S) now heads to Governor Carney for his signature.