Legislation co-sponsored by North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. that allows Newark to protect workers from having their wages stolen by employers was introduced by the City Council.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Councilman-at-Large Eddie Osborne, would allow the City of Newark to suspend or revoke business licenses of employers found to be in violation of state laws governing proper compensation for employees.
The city would also be able to ban employers who have displayed a pattern of stealing worker wages from receiving city contracts.
“This legislation is another step in ensuring that our city government will do all that it can to protect those who live and work in our city and punish employers who prey on our most vulnerable populations,” said Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr.
A 2008 survey of large cities found that 64 percent of low-wage workers have experienced some form of wage-theft in the prior week, with 26 percent paid under the minimum wage and 76 percent denied overtime.
On average victims of wage theft lose 15% of their earnings a year. In 2011, the Seton Hall Law School for Social Justice surveyed Day Laborers across New Jersey and found that many of them don’t know their rights and are reluctant to use legal recourse to enforce them.
“No business has the right to steal wages that their employees have earned through their own hard work,” Osborne said. “This ordinance will make our city a fairer place to live and work by protecting workers from unscrupulous employers and giving meaningful economic security to thousands of families.”
Louis Kimmel, executive director of New Labor, a leader in the fight against wage theft state wide, said wage theft comes in many forms, whether it’s denying overtime pay or misclassifying workers as independent contractors to skirt wage and benefit laws.
“The victims of wage theft already live on the economic edge, and are often from immigrant communities who face real barriers to legally enforcing their rights,” Kimmel said.
Jersey City is also expected to introduce similar legislation on June 24. New Brunswick was the first municipality in New Jersey to pass a wage theft law, followed by Princeton and Highland Park.