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Workers' Rights Groups Want Penalties For Unlawful Employers

Workers' rights groups have a term for cases of withheld pay, denied breaks, and unnecessary deductions. They call it “wage theft.”

In Olympia Tuesday, advocates for labor groups testified in favor of a series of measures aimed at cracking down on fraud against employees.

One proposal would triple the damages for an employer found guilty of wage theft.

“We have a social contract in this country where we say if you work a hard days work, you’re going to get paid," says the Washington State Labor Council's Teresa Mosqueda. "Where we say if you compete on a fair basis, we’ll allow that. The competition should be on a fair and level playing field.”

Opponents said the new penalties would increase the cost of business for all employers, not just ones breaking the law.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Representative David Sawyer, predicts it will pass the Democratically controlled House. But he’s not sure it has enough yes votes to pass the state Senate, which is run by a mostly Republican coalition caucus.