DC Worker Wins Her Fight Against Wage Theft
*note – the worker’s name, employer, and even the industry and amount of money recovered have been changed to protect her identity*
Mariana, originally from El Salvador, worked for several years at a local nail salon. When she finally left the salon, her employer owed her nearly $9,000. However, thanks to her own tenacity and some guidance from the EJC, Mariana has successfully recovered the wages that she was owed.
In 2011, Mariana began to work in her friend’s nail salon as a nail stylist. Throughout her employment, Mariana’s employer would sometimes fail to pay her a week’s wages. Each act of wage theft was accompanied with complaints to Mariana that her nail salon was doing poorly, and that she needed the money to keep the salon open, and that she would pay Mariana back. Mariana, not wanting to hurt her friend’s business, allowed her to withhold her paycheck, keeping track of how much she was owed.
As the amount of money owed kept rising, and the employer kept pushing back the date when she would repay the money, Mariana grew more and more concerned. On the advice of a friend, a member of the EJC’s workers’ committee, Mariana came to the EJC’s Workers’ Rights Clinic for advice.
The EJC helped Mariana draft a demand letter to her employer, which she gave to her in person. Her employer immediately became angry and began to cry. “Why are you doing this to me, why are you slandering me,” she cried.
Mariana told her that enough was enough, that she had been patient, but that she also needed the money she was promised. If her employer did not pay her the wages she was owed, she was ready to use all available remedies to demand them. Within a few days, Mariana’s employer had given her a check for half of her wages owed, and a second, post-dated check for the second half of her wages.
Mariana states, “People think that because they don’t have papers, that workers won’t stand up for themselves. But everyone has rights in this country.” Mariana encourages all members of her community to stand up and fight for the wages that they have earned.