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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2009
5:30 PM

CONTACT: Interfaith Worker Justice

Cynthia Brooke - Communications Director, Interfaith Worker Justice / 773-391-5543 [cell] | cbrooke@iwj.org

Important Step for Stopping and Deterring Wage Theft

Interfaith Worker Justice Applauds Legislative Action

CHICAGO - July 23 - Interfaith Worker Justice applauds Leading House Democrats, who today introduced a critical piece of legislation to ensure that workers do not lose their wages while the U.S. Department of Labor investigates wage theft by employers who drag the process out. The legislation is a welcome response to a stinging Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation that revealed the federal government's abysmal failure to enforce the nation's wage and hour laws.

The Wage Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 3303) is based on a GAO recommendation made in a report released this week. The bill would ensure that delays in investigating claims of wage theft will not result in a permanent loss of back pay for workers. The GAO found many investigations of wage theft were inadequately handled by the Bush administration's Wage and Hour Division and were dropped because the statute of limitations is too short and investigations took too long. To ensure that workers do not lose their hard-earned wages, the bill would freeze the statute of limitations from the date an employer is informed of an investigation until the agency notifies the employer that the investigation has concluded.

"Workers deserve to be paid for all the work they do," said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of the national organization Interfaith Worker Justice and the author of the book Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid-And What We Can Do About It. "This bill is one important step for stopping and deterring wage theft."

"This legislation is a simple solution to the very real problem of workers' pay being stolen by unscrupulous employers," said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "Especially in this economy, hard-working Americans shouldn't have to worry about whether they are being paid properly. This bill will hold those responsible for stealing workers' wages by helping to ensure that legitimate complaints can be properly investigated."

An undercover investigation by the GAO found that the Wage and Hour Division's complaint intake, complaint resolution, and investigation processes were ineffective and discouraged workers from lodging wage theft complaints. In one case, a GAO investigator called the Department of Labor to report that 14-year old children were operating dangerous equipment at a meat-processing plant, a clear and heinous violation of child labor law. The DOL later reported that they had contacted the employer and resolved the case, even though the company was fictitious.

IWJ, along with its national network of religion-labor groups and worker centers, will mobilize extensive grassroots support for the passage of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, as the organization continues its national campaign to end wage theft.

Interview opportunities:

Kim Bobo – Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice / 773-391-8844 [cell] | kbobo@iwj.org

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