BREAKING: Workers and EJC Ask DC Council to Hold Office of Wage-Hour Accountable
At 9:45 this morning, workers, EJC, and the DC Wage Theft Coalition turned out in force at the Wilson Building. Dozens more emailed Councilmember Barry to demand an end to wage theft in DC and to hold the Office of Wage-Hour accountable for enforcing protections against wage theft.
As Councilmember Barry headed into the hearing around 10:40am, workers who have been victims of wage theft, along with their supporters, stopped him to thank him for his support of victims of wage theft. The workers and their supporters all presented Councilmember Barry with pictures of their family, to symbolically demonstrate all of the families that suffer from wage theft and to show the Councilmember all of the people who su0pport him in his fight to end wage theft in DC.
(See all the key testimony clips in one place here.)
As he opened the hearing, Councilmember Barry emphasized his support for victims of wage theft. “We need to increase the liability of those who steal our money, who steal workers’ money,” Barry told the packed chamber.
EJC Advocacy Manager Ari Weisbard testified that in this year’s Budget Support Act, the DC Council must do more to help the Office of Wage-Hour combat wage theft. In addition to advocating for increased funding to hire more investigators, Weisbard advocated for:
– Clarifying that the Office of Wage-Hour must investigate whether DC’s Living Wage or federal prevailing wages apply to a worker, instead of assuming only the minimum wage will apply;
– Clarifying that the Office of Wage-Hour has the authority to seek liquidated damages on behalf of workers;
– Increasing the amount of liquidated damages a worker can collect be from equal to the wages owed to triple the wages owed.
“Even for the workers who occasionally get all of the unpaid wages, it’s an interest free loan employees are forced to offer their employers and usually don’t get paid back,” Weisbard said of Office of Wage-Hour’s inability to help workers collect liquidated damages.
At the beginning of Weisbard’s testimony, supporters stood up and held up their pictures of their families. Weisbard requested that these photos be submitted as part of his testimony, because when a worker suffers from wage theft, their whole family suffers.
“I’m caught up with overdraft fees from my bank, due to the fact that I was not paid on time and my bills are on auto pay. I have fees from not being able to pay my rent on time,” said Yvonne Johnson, whose case is still pending at the Office of Wage-Hour. Johnson stated that when she asked the Office of Wage-Hour to help her recover damages, she was told to file a claim in small claims court. “I shouldn’t have to go through another process to file for my liquidated damages to cover the overdraft fees that I owe to my bank and other hardships I experienced,” said Johnson.
Solange Ayuk testified that when she was not paid for a full months’ wages, she filed a claim with the Office of Wage-Hour. Although she received her wages in full, “Not being compensated for this time I had to wait cause a lot of hardship in my life,” said Ayuk. “I had to leave school because I didn’t have the money for classes”
Three other workers (Solange Ayuk, Howard Mayo, Eugene Thomas) also testified about their experiences of wage theft and asked the DC Council to ensure that this year’s Budget Support Act does more to help the Office of Wage-Hour combat wage theft.
EJC applauds Committee Chair Barry’s leadership on workers’ rights and wage theft. We thank him for his dedication to ensuring that all workers in the District receive the wages they are owed.
We still need your help to win this campaign! Please email Councilmember Barry to support stronger protections against wage theft and to ensure all workers receive their wages.
Likely in response to our advocacy, DOES Director Lisa Mallory announced new plans today to increase Office of Wage-Hour Staff to eight full-time employees! Watch below:
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