Under existing law, an employer who willfully refuses to pay a wage claim, or falsely denies the amount of a wage claim, or the validity thereof, or that the same is due, with intent to secure any discount or underpayment of such unpaid wage or with intent to annoy, harass, oppress, hinder, delay, or defraud the person who is owed wages (wage theft), is guilty of a misdemeanor.
The bill prohibits wage theft with the intent to coerce a person who is owed wages. The bill defines wage theft as theft, which is a felony when the theft is of an amount greater than $2,000. The bill removes the exemption from criminal penalties for an employer who is unable to pay wages or compensation because of a chapter 7 bankruptcy action or other court action resulting in the employer having limited control over his or her assets.
The bill defines "employee" as any person who performs labor or services for the benefit of an employer, provides factors that are relevant for determining whether a person is an employee, and maintains the exclusions from the definition in existing law. The bill defines "employer" as having the same meaning as set forth in the federal "Fair Labor Standards Act", specifically includes foreign labor contractors and migratory field labor contractors or crew leaders in the definition, and maintains the exclusions from the definition in existing law.
Under existing law, an employer who pays an employee a wage less than the minimum wage is guilty of a misdemeanor. Under the bill, a person who intentionally pays a wage less than the minimum commits theft, which is a felony when the theft is of an amount greater than $2,000.
(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)