Seattle's Proposed Wage Theft Ordinance

Intentionally failing to pay an employee for work performed is known as “wage theft”. Wage theft occurs when a worker performs his duties, and for one reason or another, his employer intentionally chooses to not pay for the work performed. Seattle criminal defense attorneys should be apprised that wage theft has become such a problem over the course of the past several years that the City of Seattle is now considering legislation that would make it a criminal offense. City officials have concluded that the current system does not offer the protections that are appropriate for some of the most vulnerable people in the Seattle community. Officials hope that by making wage theft a crime it will send a message to employers that they are not free to take advantage of those less fortunate; the proposed ordinance is broadly modeled after an ordinance in Austin, Texas.

Many victims of wage theft are immigrants, some of which are in the United States illegally. Thus, these folks run the risk of being reported to the immigration authorities if they report wage theft. Some employers recognize this and either refuse to pay the immigrant for work performed or alternatively the employer pays the immigrant significantly less money than what was agreed to before any work commenced.

In 2006, Washington State lawmakers passed the Wage Payment Act (the “WPA”). The WPA was intended to provide workers an administrative process for recovering lost wages. Unfortunately the WPA has not been too successful in collecting employees fees owed; last year Labors and Industries (pursuant to the WPA) collected less than half of the $3.9 million it determined was owed by employers. The reasons for this vary widely. Workers sometimes lack sufficient evidence to prove a claim. Investigations often take so long that workers may leave town in search of other work. Businesses go under and their accounts go dry, and the state lacks sufficient resources to aggressively pursue employers.

The proposed legislation, which clarifies that wage theft is included in the city’s theft-of-service ordinance, would provide workers with another tool to protect themselves against unsavory business practices. It would allow the City of Seattle to deny or revoke business licenses of employers with outstanding wage-theft violations. It would also allow for the prosecution of employers who either contract for work in the city or have the work performed within the city limits.

In many instances, a qualified Seattle criminal attorney can significantly reduce the impact that a criminal charge will have on an individual’s life and profession. The right Seattle criminal lawyer will be worth his/her weight in gold when protecting a person’s rights, freedom and future. The Seattle criminal defense lawyers that make up the litigation team of SQ Attorneys are dedicated to defending those accused of committing a crime. They have the experience, knowledge and resources to successfully defend your case and to protect you from the consequences that may arise as a result of the criminal allegations. Unlike other law firms that practice in many areas of the law, SQ Attorneys is focused on criminal defense in Western Washington.

If you or a loved one is faced with a criminal charge in Western Washington, you deserve the assistance of a reputable and qualified Seattle criminal attorney who will relentlessly defend your case. You deserve a Seattle criminal defense lawyer who has an intimate understanding of Washington’s criminal laws and the legal issues that could win your case. You deserve a Seattle criminal defense lawyer who is not afraid to stand up against the prosecution and aggressively fight for your rights and interests. SQ Attorneys is the right Western Washington law firm for the job. Call for a free initial consultation – (206) 441.0900 (Seattle); (425) 998-8384 (Eastside) – it will be the best decision you make all day.

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10.0Gregory Wayne Schwesinger
10.0Saad Qamer Qadri