In September 2014, the Center represented a former employee of the Coffee Garden in proceedings before the state Labor Commissioner, alleging wage theft and violations of rest and meal period laws. The Labor Commissioner awarded the employee over $4000 in lost wages, interest, and penalties, but despite the best efforts of the Center to work with the Coffee Garden to collect the funds, the employer refused to pay.
Notifying Patrons of Wage Theft at the Coffee Garden
Beginning on February 19, 2015, the Center for Workers’ Rights organized an informational leafleting at the Coffee Garden on Franklin Blvd., notifying patrons of the employer’s violation of labor laws and asking them to request that the owner pay the former employee the wages owed.
At first, the Coffee Garden owner said that he would never pay the former worker, however, less than an hour later, the owner offered us a $100 check in hopes that it would induce us to stop our leafleting. When we returned the next day, increasing our leafleting hours, the owner called to say he was ready to enter into a formal payment plan to satisfy the Labor Commissioner judgment. He wrote our worker another check, signed an agreement for the remainder of the payments, and we called off our leafleting.
Large-Scale Impact of Wage Theft
Unfortunately, wage theft like this is not unusual, particularly in the service sector and the informal economy. A three-city study of workers in low-wage industries found that in any given week, two-thirds experienced at least one pay-related violation. Wage violations include failure to pay overtime, working employees off the clock, and failing to observe required meal and break regulations. Researchers estimated that the average loss per worker over the course of a year was $2,634, out of total earnings of $17,616. Total wage theft from front-line in the three cities approached $3 billion. (Center for Urban Economic Development, National Employment Law Project, and UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities, 2009. www.unprotectedworkers.org/index.php/broken_laws/index).
The Center for Workers’ Rights has made combating wage theft a top priority and the success at the Coffee Garden shows our ability to deliver results to Sacramento workers.