PreprintPDF Available
Preprints and early-stage research may not have been peer reviewed yet.

Abstract

Wage theft harms workers and their families directly, but also diminishes the collective bargaining power of workers by depressing hourly wages in the impacted industries and occupations. This has a ripple effect on the State’s economy, since it forces workers to rely on increasingly strained public assistance programs, which ultimately affects taxpayers.
Wage Theft in Silicon Valley:
Building Worker Power
Michael Tayag · Ruth Silver Taube · Felwina Mondina ·
Katherine Nasol · Forest Peterson
A Report by the Santa Clara Country Wage Theft Coalition
Photo Credit: Kirsten Jill Aguilar
Executive Summary...................................................................................1
Introduction..............................................................................................2
Wage Theft...............................................................................................4
Wage Theft: A Key Component of Labor Trafficking...................................16
Employers Who Commit Wage Theft Likely Also Fail
to Provide Safe Workplaces.......................................................................18
Wage Theft Worsens as Unemployment Rate Increases
and Workers Lose Pay..............................................................................25
Fear of Retaliation: Speaking Up About Wage Theft and
Other Workers’ Rights Violations...............................................................27
The Coalition’s Victories...........................................................................29
Policy Recommendations..........................................................................31
Acknowledgments....................................................................................35
Appendix A..............................................................................................36
Endnotes.................................................................................................38
Table of Contents
Wage theft harms workers and their families
directly, but also diminishes the collective
bargaining power of workers by depressing
hourly wages in the impacted industries and
occupations. This has a ripple effect on the
State’s economy, since it forces workers to rely
on increasingly strained public assistance
programs, which ultimately affects taxpayers.
The theft of workers’ earned wages is an
epidemic that costs workers billions of dollars
across various industries. In Santa Clara County
alone, our analysis of federal, state, and local
datasets found a total of 25,856 reported wage
theft cases across industries. These cases affected
32,826 employees and amounted to $128,871,256
in total wage theft that is still unpaid—or an
average of $3,926 per employee.
Executive Summary
In this report, the Santa Clara County Wage Theft
Coalition recommends state and local policies to
(1) protect worker health and safety amid the
pandemic, (2) prevent wage theft and strengthen
enforcement , and (3) increase worker power and
employer accountability.
This report demonstrates that wage theft remains
rampant in Santa Clara County due to insufficient
government enforcement. Despite the progress
that the state and local governments have made
to combat the problem, workers continue to face
wage theft in huge numbers. Even those who
successfully file claims against their employers,
enduring legal proceedings that can take months
or years, largely fail to collect the back wages
they are awarded. The crisis of wage theft has
only worsened in the age of COVID-19, which has
also exacerbated labor trafficking, health and
safety violations, job losses, pay decreases, and
retaliation against workers.
1
Photo Credit: Brooke Anderson Photography
Wage theft, or employers’ theft of workers’
earned wages, is an epidemic that costs workers
billions of dollars across various industries. Wage
theft occurs when a worker is paid less than
minimum wage, is not paid overtime, is paid only
in tips, is not paid at all, or works off the clock. A
study by the Economic Policy Institute found that
workers experiencing minimum wage violations
are underpaid an average of $64 per week, nearly
one-quarter of their weekly earnings; a total of
$15 billion of wages are stolen each year in the
United States [1].
The Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition was
formed in 2013 to respond to the ongoing crisis of
wage theft in the region. The Coalition is
composed of 35 community organizations,
grassroots groups, and nonprofits that defend
workers’ rights and ensure enforcement of wage
theft judgments through actions such as policy
advocacy, community organizing and outreach,
direct action, education, leadership
development, and resource coordination. The
Coalition works directly with workers and their
families, particularly low-wage workers who have
been victims of wage theft.
This report presents new data demonstrating the
enormous scope of unpaid back wages in Santa
Clara County and analyzes policy developments
related to wage theft in the County. It highlights
workers’ rights issues that intersect with
unresolved wage theft, including retaliation,
workplace health and safety violations, and labor
trafficking, as well as their adverse impacts on
the real earnings of already low-wage workers
during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the
concluding sections, the Coalition summarizes
key advocacy and organizing victories since its
last report in 2015, and proposes further policy
recommendations to eradicate wage theft and
continue building worker power.
Introduction
2
Photo Credit: Wage Theft Coalition
The historical and ongoing struggle for racial and
social justice critically informs the findings in
this report. Wage theft and other workers’ rights
violations disproportionately impact people of
color, immigrant workers, and women, largely
because they are more likely than other workers
to have low-wage jobs. Such disparities
substantially stem from racial exclusion. COVID-
19 exacerbates these inequities [2]. In advocating
to build worker power through this report, the
Coalition honors and supports the Movement for
Black Lives and the cause of racial and social
justice.
3
To write this report, the authors reviewed
academic publications, policy reports, news
articles, caselaw, and legislation. We summarized
wage theft trends based on data from the U.S.
Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour
Division, the California Division of Labor
Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and the San Jose
Office of Equality Assurance. Finally, we
interviewed thirty workers from diverse racial
and ethnic backgrounds through the Coalition’s
Silicon Valley Workers Stories Project. (To view
the full transcripts of those interviews, visit
workers-stories.org.)
Photo Credit: Brooke Anderson Photography
Wage Theft
Receiving pay less than minimum wage;
Not receiving agreed upon wages (not getting
paid overtime on commissions, piece rate,
and regular wages);
Not accruing or being allowed to take paid
sick leave;
Unauthorized pay deductions;
Not receiving promised vacations or bonuses;
Not being paid split-shift premiums;
Not receiving final wages in a timely manner;
Not being allowed to take meal breaks,
rest breaks, and/or preventative
cool-down breaks;
Tip theft by owners or managers;
Not being reimbursed for business expenses;
Bounced paychecks; and
Not receiving Reporting Time Pay [4]
What is Wage Theft?
Wage theft is the “practice of employers failing to
pay workers the full wages to which they are
legally entitled” [3]. According to the California
Department of Industrial Relations, examples of
wage theft include:
The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement
(DLSE, also known as the Labor Commission),
which enforces the California Labor Code and
California Wage Orders, is the principal state
agency tasked with investigating and adjudicating
wage theft claims [5]. The U.S. Department of
Labor (DOL) and local governments can also
employ various mechanisms to enforce against
wage theft.
Wage theft occurs with alarming frequency in
California. The DOL reported in 2014 that
minimum wage violations in California occur
approximately 372,000 times each week. These
violations were associated with $22.5 million in
weekly lost income [6].
Furthermore, according to the 2018 Bureau of
Field Enforcement (BOFE) Report, 4,166
inspections in a variety of industries found over
3,800 violations that accrued more than
$77,600,000 in penalties, along with over
$78,800,000 in lost wages assessed [7]. And in
January 2019 the Labor Commissioner’s Office
secured over $5 million in settlements for wage
theft [8]. One Bay Area restaurant chain agreed to
pay $4 million over three payments to 298
workers that were identified during the
investigation in 2018, while another Bay Area
restaurant chain was issued wages and civil
penalty citations totaling more than $1.8 million
by the Labor Commissioner’s Office [9].
Within California, Santa Clara County is known
not only as home to the world’s largest high-tech
companies but also as the county with the highest
number of wage theft claims per capita. The
Coalition’s 2015 Report concluded that more
workers file claims in Santa Clara County than in
the rest of the state, and that more wages on
average are stolen from each worker in the
County [10]. The San Jose Office of the Labor
Commissioner receives an average of 294 claims
each month, the highest number of all the sixteen
regions [11]. The office awards an average of
$1,000 more per worker than the
statewide average.
The 2015 Report provided the impetus for the
establishment of the County of Santa Clara’s
Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) in
2017. The office uses its authority to revoke
restaurant health permits from restaurants that
do not pay wage theft judgments, and conducts
outreach and education through its Fair
Workplace Collaborative. According to the
OLSE’s analysis of 1,743 judgments filed between
January 2015 and September 2019, restaurant
owners in the county owe nearly $5 million in
back wages to employees—an average of about
$2,900 per employee [12].
4
Only 17 percent of California workers who
prevailed in their wage claims before the
DLSE and received a judgment were able to
recover any payment at all between 2008
and 2011.
Although the DLSE issued awards for unpaid
wages of more than $282 million between
2008 and 2011, workers were able to collect a
mere $42 million—roughly 15 percent—of
those awards from their employers.
Workers who try to enforce DLSE judgments
for unpaid wages often find that their
employers have disappeared, hidden assets,
or shut down operations and reorganized as
new entities.
Employers who failed to pay their workers,
refused to settle, were found by DLSE to owe
wages, and then became subject to court
judgments, were more likely than not to have
suspended, forfeited, canceled, or dissolved
business status within a year of the wage
claim.
In 60 percent of cases where judgments were
issued against business entities by the DLSE,
employers who were found to owe their
workers for unpaid wages were also found to
be “non-active” business entities by the
California Franchise Board [13].
A landmark study conducted by the National
Employment Law Project (NELP) found
the following:
Similarly, the DOL and the California Labor
Commissioner’s Office have found rampant
failure to satisfy wage theft judgments. In the
caregiving industry, for example, caregivers have
filed 526 wage theft claims with the Labor
Commissioner’s Office since 2011. In those cases
5
Wage theft harms workers and their families
directly, but also diminishes the collective
bargaining power of workers by depressing
hourly wages in the impacted industries and
occupations. This has a ripple effect on the
State’s economy, since it forces workers to rely
on increasingly strained public assistance
programs, which ultimately affects taxpayers.
Collecting Wage Theft
Judgments
While workers often win their wage theft claims,
collecting is a different story. Employers often
avoid paying what they owe. As a result, many
workers never get paid the wages they earned,
even after engaging in lengthy legal proceedings.
For most workers, their wage theft stories are
stories of hollow victories.
“The care home was only paying me very
little — below the minimum wage —
$10.50 per hour. When I was working
there, I did not know what is the facility
setting or how the workers are being paid
here [in this country] because I'm very
new. They did not discuss our breaks and
everything. Sometimes I don’t take
breaks.”
— Mary Ann, an undocumented
immigrant from the Philippines who
worked as a caregiver
that went to hearings, workers were found to be
owed $2.5 million dollars collectively.
Approximately 71 percent of the judgment
amount due ($1.8 million)
remains unpaid [14].
There are some signs that post-judgment
collection has improved slightly in California due
to SB 588, a bill passed in 2015 that gives the
Labor Commission new powers to collect post-
judgment money [15]. Since SB 588, the collection
rate has increased somewhat from 17% to 28%
[16]. Last year, the Bureau of Field Enforcement
recovered nearly $10.5 million in unpaid wage
judgments—more than double the previous year
[17]. Under SB 588, a business that contracts with
a property service or janitorial company is jointly
liable for unpaid wages. The Labor Commission
has been more successful in collecting in the
property services industry [18], yet still only $3.7
million has been recovered out of over $29
million in outstanding judgments [19].
Additionally, the Labor Commission can now
mail levies to banks to collect unpaid judgments
without relying on local sheriffs and issue stop
work orders. Mail levies account for over two-
thirds of the money collected, and the stop work
order provision has accounted for nearly 26% of
outstanding judgments recovered [20].
SB588 notwithstanding, the Judgment
Enforcement Unit of the Labor Commission has a
very small staff that cannot keep up with the
volume of unpaid wage theft judgments.
Thus, there is still a crisis in the collection of
unpaid wage theft judgments, and a victory at the
Labor Commission remains a hollow victory.
Wage Theft, By County,
City & Industry
This report's unprecedented data analysis
emphasizes the enormous scope of reported
wage theft in Santa Clara County. This analysis is
based on the DOL Wage and Hour Division’s
cases (not all resulting in judgments) since 2000,
the DLSE’s judgments since 2001, and the City of
San Jose’s Office of Equality Assurance’s cases
since 2011 [21].
Since these data exclude instances of wage theft
that were not investigated or adjudicated by these
agencies, among other data constraints [22], the
full extent of wage theft in the County is
undoubtedly much greater than even the
following samples.
We found a total of 25,856 wage theft cases in
Santa Clara County across all industries. These
cases affected 32,826 employees and amounted to
$128,871,256 in total wage theft that remains
unpaid—or an average of $3,926 in back wages
per employee, plus interest and penalties. Fig. 1
below provides a city-by-city visualization of
wage theft in the County. (See Appendix A for
data corresponding to this and the following heat
maps for select cities.)
6
7
Fig. 1: Heat Map of Back wages Owed in Santa Clara County, by City
Fig. 2: Heat Map of Back Wages Owed in County’s Construction
Industry, by City
Further, we reviewed wage theft in six high-risk
industries [23]: construction, care homes, fast
food, janitorial services, personal care, and
gig work:
Construction
We found a total of 8,480 wage theft cases in
Santa Clara County’s construction industry.
These cases affected 12,376 employees and
amounted to $46,609,898 in total unpaid wage
theft—or an average of $3,766 in back wages per
employee, plus interest and penalties. Fig. 2
provides a city-by-city visualization of wage theft
in the County’s construction industry.
Care Homes
We found a total of 1,628 wage theft cases in Santa
Clara County’s care home and residential care
industry. These cases affected 3,474 employees and
amounted to $15,328,942 in total unpaid wage theft—
or an average of $4,412 in back wages per employee,
plus interest and penalties. Fig. 3 below provides a
city-by-city visualization of wage theft in the County’s
care home industry.
Fast Food
We found a total of 2,146 wage theft cases in Santa
Clara County’s fast food industry. These cases
affected 2,490 employees and amounted to $9,141,461
in total unpaid wage theft—or an average of $3,671 in
back wages per employee, plus interest and penalties.
Fig. 4 below provides a city-by-city visualization of
wage theft in the County’s fast food industry.
8
Photo Credit: Wage Theft Coalition
9
Fig. 4: Heat Map of Back Wages Owed in County’s Fast Food
Industry, by City
Fig. 3: Heat Map of Back Wages Owed in County’s Care Home
Industry, by City
10
Janitorial Services
We found a total of 1,758 wage theft cases in
Santa Clara County’s janitorial industry. These
cases affected 2,124 employees and amounted to
$6,798,711 in total unpaid wage theft—or an
average of $3,201 in back wages per employee,
plus interest and penalties. Fig. 5 below provides
a city-by-city visualization of wage theft in the
County’s janitorial industry.
We found a total of 8,480 wage theft cases in
Santa Clara County’s construction industry.
These cases affected 12,376 employees and
amounted to $46,609,898 in total unpaid wage
theft—or an average of $3,766 in back wages per
employee, plus interest and penalties. Fig. 2
above provides a city-by-city visualization of
wage theft in the County’s construction industry.
Personal Care
We found a total of 700 wage theft cases in Santa
Clara County’s personal care industry. These
cases affected 748 employees and amounted to
$3,196,302 in total unpaid wage theft—or an
average of $4,273 in back wages per employee,
plus interest and penalties. Fig. 6 below provides
a city-by-city visualization of wage theft in the
County’s personal care industry.
Gig Work
We found a total of 106 wage theft cases in Santa
Clara County’s gig industry. These cases affected
106 employees and amounted to $986,946 in total
unpaid wage theft—or an average of $9,310 in back
wages per employee, plus interest and penalties.
Fig. 7 below provides a city-by-city visualization of
wage theft in the County’s gig industry.
Photo Credit: Kristen Jill Aguilar
11
.
Fig. 5: Heat Map of Back Wages Owed in County’s
Janitorial Industry, by City
Fig. 6: Heat Map of Back Wages Owed in County’s
Personal Care Industry, by City
Fig. 7: Heat Map of Back Wages Owed in County’s Gig Industry, by City
12
Wage Theft and Race
Workers’ rights issues, including wage theft, are
matters of racial justice. The racial wage divide is
one of the most persistent features of the United
States labor market. The wage gap between white
and non-white workers persists across the wage
distribution and is larger at the top end of the
wage distribution, where Black workers are
excluded from high-wage jobs [24].
Similarly, there is a large and long-standing
disparity in unemployment between Black and
white workers. Black job seekers are about half
as likely as white job seekers to secure
employment during a consecutive 4-week period.
This has been true across multiple periods of
economic expansion and recession, and is
observed for all age cohorts, at every level of
education, and for men and women alike [25].
Further, according to data compiled by the
Center for Economic and Policy Research of
workers from 2008-2010, women, noncitizens,
and Hispanic and Black workers face a higher
probability of experiencing minimum wage
violations. When the interaction of gender, race,
and citizenship are taken into account, the effects
of discrimination are compounded [26]. Hispanic
women who were not United States citizens, for
example, were 2.6 times more likely to
experience a minimum wage violation than white
female citizens, while noncitizen Black women
were 2.4 times more likely [27].
Photo Credit: Brooke Anderson Photography
13
Similar disparities persist in Santa Clara County.
Fig. 8 demonstrates that Black and Latinx
workers in Santa Clara County disproportionately
sought legal assistance for employment issues
from the Workers’ Rights Clinic at Santa Clara
University School of Law’s Katharine & George
Alexander Law Center (Workers’ Rights Clinic).
The inner circle represents the County’s racial
demographics, while the outer circle represents
Fig. 8: Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center Worker Rights Cases Breakdown in
Comparison to Santa Clara County Racial Demographics
the racial demographics of the Workers’ Rights
Clinic’s clients. The Workers’ Rights Clinic served
more Black and Latinx clients in comparison to
the County’s populations: Latinx individuals
comprise 61% of the clinic’s clients but only
25.3% of the County population, and Black
individuals comprise 5.6% of the clinic’s clients
but only 2.4% of the County population.
14
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated
these employment disparities. As seen in Figure
9, Latinx workers account for a quarter of Santa
Clara County’s workforce and are
overrepresented in frontline industries such as
agriculture, domestic work, and cleaning
services. Black workers are disproportionately
represented in the trucking industry, as are Asian
and Pacific Islander workers in healthcare and
manufacturing [29]. COVID-19 disproportionately
harms these essential workers, who are more
likely to live in or near poverty, pay too much for
housing, and lack health insurance [30].
Additionally, a study by the University of
California at San Francisco found that Latinx
workers had a 36% increase in deaths during the
pandemic, and Black workers had a 28%
increase, compared to a 6% increase for white
workers. Some non-white workers suffered
particularly high jumps in deaths during the
pandemic. For instance, deaths among Asian
health care workers rose 40% during the
pandemic, while those among Black retail
workers increased by 18% [31].
15
Fig. 9: Minimum Wage Violations By Gender, Race, and Citizenship (Source: Equitable Growth) [28]
Wage theft is a key component of labor
trafficking, where traffickers force or coerce
victims to work against their will for little or no
pay. Labor trafficking can occur in any industry,
including domestic work, restaurant and food
services, hospitality services, care homes,
farming and agriculture, manufacturing, and
sales [32]. Labor trafficking is rampant in the Bay
Area -- for example, in the Rainbow Bright case,
traffickers were charged with grand theft of
wages totaling $8.5 million:
Wage Theft: A Key component of
Labor Trafficking
16
In September 2018, the owners of
Rainbow Bright, an adult residential care
facility with multiple locations in South
San Francisco, were charged with labor
trafficking and grand theft of wages
totaling $8.5 million. The owners
primarily targeted Filipinos who had just
arrived in the United States, threatening
them with deportation, but the owners
also recruited Filipinos in this country.
The workers endured abysmal working
conditions. They were forced to work up
to twenty-four hours per day and to sleep
on mattresses on the floor. They lived in
fear because the owners had 14 illegal
assault weapons and other firearms [33].
Another labor trafficking case involved Mango
Gardens; one of the three restaurants owned by the
trafficker was in San Jose. In that case, the
traffickers stole $1,006,455 in wages from the
workers, who were paid as little as $2 an hour
in cash.
The workers in the Mango Gardens labor
trafficking case lived in squalid
conditions with 15 people crammed into
a two-bedroom apartment and
mattresses on the floor [34]. They were
required to work 11 to 12 hours per day,
six days a per week, without overtime
pay or tips [35]. Workers were paid as
little as $2 per hour in cash. Some
workers were denied medical treatment
[36]. When the owners learned that the
workers were preparing to sue them,
they closed two of their businesses and
reopened them under different
ownership in an attempt to avoid the
lawsuit [37]. The traffickers were
convicted and ordered to pay $1,006,455
in back wages [38].
Photo Credit: Kristen Jill Aguilar
Another case involved Tapa Ole, which was a
restaurant in Saratoga. There, some workers
were paid as little as $5.00, while other workers
were paid nothing at all.
In a Gilroy labor trafficking case, a man was
forced to work 15 hour shifts with no pay,
according to the Santa Clara County District
Attorney’s Office.
17
On November 2020, the owners of a
liquor store and a market in Gilroy were
arrested on charges of human
trafficking, witness intimidation, and
wage theft [43]. They allegedly forced a
man to work 15 hour shifts seven days a
week for no pay, according to the Santa
Clara County District Attorney’s Office
[44]. He slept in a storage room and
bathed in a mop sink, according to
authorities [45]. The victim had allegedly
flown to the United States from India in
2019 expecting to travel. The owners of
the Gilroy liquor store and market took
the man’s passport and put him to work
with no pay [46].
The pandemic makes it more difficult to identify
labor trafficking victims. In an environment
where the priority is limiting the spread of
COVID-19, it is easier for traffickers to hide their
operations, making victims increasingly
invisible. Further, dramatic increases in
unemployment and reductions in wages make
people more vulnerable to labor trafficking [47].
In Saratoga, the owners of Tapa Ole
restaurant and Utopik beauty salon
recruited workers from an economically
depressed part of Spain. The owners
housed them in two sheds, as well as a
tiny room at the back of their house with
cracks in the wall through which
cockroaches scurried [39]. Some workers
were told they could work off the debt
they owed for their plane tickets to the
United States [40]. The owners demanded
money for rent and docked it from their
pay or did not pay them at all [41]. One
worked for $5.00 an hour [42]. The owners
were convicted on 44 felony counts.
Photo Credit: Kristen Jill Aguilar
Employers Who Commit Wage Theft Likely
Also Fail to Provide Safe Workplaces
18
labor laws are more likely to violate health and
safety standards, such as the Emergency
Temporary Standard recently adopted by the
State of California [48].
Wage theft violations are correlated with health
and safety violations. A study of restaurants in
New York found that employers who violate
Public Health) [49]
Fig. 10: Five Indicators of Unhealthy Workplace Practices,
by Whether or Not Labor Violations Were Common in
the Restaurant (Source: San Francisco Department of
The COVID-19 pandemic has especially impacted
frontline, low-wage workers who must work
during the pandemic and are therefore
consistently at risk of exposure to the virus.
Between August 30, 2020 and October 26, 2021,
Santa Clara County received 1,658 complaints
alleging businesses violations of its COVID-19
Safety Protocols, which could otherwise help
prevent COVID-19 transmission to frontline
workers and slow community spread [50].
Sandra — a janitorial worker.
When everything started, they gave us something
that was a piece of cloth, a piece of fabric that is
very cheap ... they gave us two rubber bands and a
paper with instructions to make a face mask with
that, but [those facemasks] don’t protect us from
anything, and we had to make them ourselves...
That was the only thing they gave us … and a hand
sanitizer, a little container and that was all…
During this ongoing crisis, fast food
establishments have failed to provide adequate
personal protective equipment (PPE) and enforce
health and safety protocols, such as mask-
wearing and workplace sanitization. Some have
even required workers to come to work after
testing positive for COVID-19. In an SEIU union
survey from April 2020, more than 90% of
respondents said they had trouble getting masks,
and 1 in 5 reported working while ill, either
because they lacked paid sick leave or were
afraid of being penalized for not showing up.
There were also strikes over COVID-19 safety led
by Fight for $15 workers that shut down more
than 100 McDonald’s outlets in 20 cities [51].
Health and Safety in the Fast Food
Industry
home [55].
At a McDonald’s on Telegraph Avenue in
Oakland, California, the workers were
told to wear dog diapers when the store
ran out of masks, and 20 workers and
their families tested positive for COVID-
19 [52]. Soon, COVID-19 had flared at nine
other McDonald’s outlets within 15 miles
of the Telegraph Avenue store, including
three operated by the same owner, with
more than 70 workers and their families
testing positive or exhibiting symptoms
[53]. SEIU filed a complaint in Superior
Court on behalf of the workers. The judge
ordered the store to upgrade coronavirus
safety measures and get approval from
the county health department before
reopening [54]. When workers continued
to test positive, the judge issued an
injunction requiring the owner to
provide sick pay and ensure that workers
with COVID-19 symptoms stayed
Marissa — a pregnant fast food worker and Fight for
$15 member
“Before the pandemic I worked 8 hours, I had
enough to cover the costs for food and rent. When
the pandemic hit they would give us 3 – 3.5 hours. It
is a tragedy because I could not cover my costs for
the kids and I couldn’t pay rent...It’s worrisome, I
had to buy masks. The manager gave us some
masks, but when I put on the first mask that the
manager brought to us, the first thing that my
coworker mentioned was that the masks
were diapers…”
19
Fight for $15 has filed 19 Occupational Safety and
Health (OSHA) and/or Public Health complaints
with Santa Clara County, as well as 130
complaints in the State of California [56]. The
following are three examples of OSHA and/or
Public Health complaints with Santa Clara
County in the last three months of 2020.
• unduly delaying informing employees of
possible exposure to two co-workers who had
tested positive for COVID-19; and
McDonald’s, 1299 E. Santa Clara, San Jose
According to a worker complaint filed June 9,
2020 with the Santa Clara County Public Health
Department, this McDonald’s failed to comply
with basic COVID-19 safety precautions and/or
the Santa Clara County Health Officer’s Health
Orders, including by:
• failing to provide employees with adequate
personal protective equipment (PPE) such as
masks and gloves that do not break easily;
• failing to enforce proper mask-wearing;
• allowing employees to work with visible COVID-
19 symptoms;
• failing to inform employees of their right
to paid sick leave or paid quarantine leave,
even after two co-workers tested positive for
COVID-19.
McDonald’s, 6990 Automall Parkway, Gilroy
According to complaints filed by four different
workers with the Santa Clara Department of
Environmental Health and Cal/OSHA between
June 13 and August 27, 2020, this McDonald’s has
persistently failed to provide a safe and healthy
work environment for its employees, and as of
August 7, at least four workers at this store had
already tested positive for COVID-19. The worker
complaints document in detail the store’s failure
to comply with basic COVID-19 safety measures
and/or the Santa Clara County Health Officer’s
Health Orders, which include, among
other things:
• failing to provide adequate and sufficient PPE,
including masks;
• failing to enforce proper mask-wearing by both
employees and customers;
• failing to enforce store hand-washing policies;
• failing to enforce social distancing;
• failing to conduct worker temperature checks
at the start of each shift and instead relying on
employees to self-report any COVID-19
symptoms;
• failing to regularly and thoroughly clean and
sanitize high-touch surfaces, including surfaces
that workers regularly touch without gloves, such
as the touch screens where workers clock in and
out, the point-of-sale touch screens, and headsets
that are shared by multiple cashiers each shift;
to stop.
• failing to notify employees of possible
exposure to a co-worker who had tested positive
for COVID-19;
• failing to clearly communicate to workers that
they should stay home if they experience COVID-
19 symptoms, and failing to clearly inform
employees of their right to paid sick leave or paid
quarantine leave; and
• denying sick and exposed workers paid leave to
quarantine or while awaiting COVID-19 test
results, even after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis
in the workplace.
According to three different workers, after a
staff member tested positive for COVID-19,
management told only some, but not all, of the
workers at the store about their potential
exposure. Management did not close the store
for a thorough and professional cleaning. Even
though all workers at this store work in close
quarters and share small spaces for many hours
and workers were not provided sufficient PPE,
management allowed only a few potentially
exposed co-workers to quarantine. Others who
requested time off to quarantine out of concern
about their potential exposure were told they
would not be paid, and potentially exposed
workers who got tested for COVID-19 were told
they would not be given paid time off while
they awaited their test results. When another
employee later tested positive for COVID-19 and
tried to inform her co-workers of their potential
exposure, her manager reportedly told her
20
McDonald’s, 1033 E. Capitol Expressway,
San Jose
According to a complaint filed on October 30,
2020 by Oralia Almaraz with the Santa Clara
County Department of Public Health, the Santa
Clara County Office of Labor Standards
Enforcement (through the Advice Line), and
Cal/OSHA, for about a week leading up to
October 4, 2020, four workers at this store, one
after another, were forced to work while sick
with visible COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever,
cough, body aches, and sore throat, until they
were too sick to work any longer.
Reportedly, even after the first worker had to
stop working because they were too sick,
management continued to force the others to
continue working while sick. The complaint
asserts that each of the sick workers was in close
contact with six to eight co-workers during each
shift. On October 4, management informed Ms.
Almaraz that multiple people at this store had
tested positive for COVID-19 and that she needed
to quarantine, but provided no further
information and did not suggest that she herself
get tested.
Ms. Almaraz reports that, when she asked if she
would be paid for her quarantine time, her
manager told her she would have to check, but
never got back to Ms. Almaraz with an answer.
Ms. Almaraz and two other co-workers who were
also asked to quarantine state that they were
ultimately paid only a portion of their regular
wages for their quarantine time.
Due to Fight for $15 and the Santa Clara County
Wage Theft Coalition’s advocacy, on January 26,
2020, the Santa Clara County Board of
Supervisors unanimously passed a measure to: 1)
task community outreach workers with
conducting outreach and education to food retail
businesses, in consultation with workers and
advocates; 2) create a Food Retail Task Force with
input from workers and advocates to carry out
enhanced enforcement at food retail businesses
that have been leading sources of complaints and
violations; and 3) suspend and revoke retail food
facility permits for businesses where failure to
cooperate with authorities poses an imminent
threat of harm [57].
21
Photo Credit: Brooke Anderson Movement Photography
Health and Safety Within the Care
Home Industry
Care workers include staff at assisted living
facilities and residential care facilities for the
elderly (RCFEs), personal attendants to people
with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and
home health aides. Sixty-two percent of
homecare workers are people of color, many
of whom are Black and immigrant women,
with a median income of $16,200 [58]. For
nursing home employees, workers earn low
wages and are not always entitled to paid sick
leave. Many work at multiple facilities or at
other jobs, which increases the risk of
contracting the virus [59]. Given their low
wages and economic difficulty, hourly care
workers may be pressured not to call in sick
even when they exhibit symptoms
of COVID-19 [60].
In Santa Clara County, RCFEs, assisted living
facilities, and nursing homes—with care
workers at the frontlines—have experienced
widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. On April
27, 2020, a San Jose nursing home became one
of the first eldercare facilities to report a
major outbreak, reaching over 100 infected
cases [61]. One of the largest recent outbreaks
occurred at San Tomas Convalescent Hospital
in San Jose, where 104 residents and 61 health
care workers tested positive for COVID-19,
according to state data [62]. State data also
indicates that 20 of the San Tomas’
Convalescent Hospital residents who had
COVID-19 have died [63]. The Atria Willow
Glen assisted living facility in San Jose had an
outbreak in which 33 residents and employees
tested positive for COVID-19 and one resident
died [64]. These crises illustrate the critical
importance of bolstering protections for
vulnerable care workers.
Meanwhile, domestic workers are excluded
altogether from protection under the standards
administered by the California Division of
Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better
known as Cal/OSHA [65]. Though Cal/OSHA’s
satandards require employers to provide health
and safety protections to workers, a worker who
provides “household domestic service,” or works
in a private home caring for a child, an elderly
person, or a person with disabilities, is excluded.
Thus, 350,000 domestic workers employed by
more than 2 million families in the State have no
workplace health and safety protections during
the pandemic [66]. A study of 700 domestic
workers in San Francisco and Los Angeles found
that, among those who continued to work during
the first 3 months of the pandemic, nearly 1 in 3
reported that they lacked adequate PPE, and only
25% reported that they had been provided safety
training by their employer—training required by
law in other industries [67]. In 2020 the California
Domestic Workers Coalition advocated for SB
1257, the Health and Safety for All Workers Act,
which would have removed this exclusion. But
given Governor Newsom’s veto, California
domestic workers remain unprotected under
Cal/OSHA’s standards, including the Emergency
Temporary Standards (discussed below).
22
Lena — a Filipino caregiver who cares for an elderly
disabled person in a private home
“For private care or one-on-one, we have to provide
our own masks and gloves. Some homes provide
PPE but limit everyday usage.. I have my own
personal supply, but if this lockdown continues any
longer I will need to ask help from people who can
provide PPE. Because of COVID-19, there are many
clients discharged from hospitals in need of
caregivers, but it’s high risk work. I told my
caregiver friends that there will always be more
work but work can wait. We only have one life, so
we have to value it and take care of ourselves. We
cannot afford to lose our lives if we get infected.”
Grassroots organizations have had to fill gaps in
light of employers and governments’ failures to
safeguard worker health and safety. For
example, many workers have had to rely on
grassroots organizations to supply basic life-
saving PPE. The Pilipinx Association of Workers
and Immigrants (PAWIS)—a grassroots
organization advocating for the rights of
workers and immigrants in Santa Clara County
—distributed masks, face shields, gloves, and
other PPE to domestic workers, caregivers,
nurses, and staff at residential care home
facilities and large assisted living facilities.
PAWIS also launched fundraising drives for
workers who were most severely impacted by
the pandemic.
23
The PPE drive was a response to
workers who informed PAWIS about
the lack of PPE in care homes and
assisted living facilities. Those workers
included the following:
• Lala worked for a health care agency.
At the start of the pandemic, her
employer gave her and her co-workers
only four surgical masks. They were
told to spray the masks with
disinfectant after use and air-dry them
for reuse the next day. She was also
issued a limited number of gloves,
which she was also told to reuse.
• Hannah worked for a health care
agency that assigned her to take care of
clients in an assisted living facility. One
of her clients who tested positive for
COVID-19 during the pandemic was
quarantined. The agency did not
provide her with PPE. She needed
disposable medical gowns, not just
surgical masks; PAWIS provided the
medical gown.
• Ana was assigned by her joint employer,
an agency, to work at a nursing facility
with clients who had COVID-19. She
unknowingly contracted the virus and
went to work without proper PPE because
her agency and the facility failed to
provide them.
• Two Filipino caregivers working for a
skilled nursing facility contracted COVID-
19. The facility did not have sufficient PPE
at the start of the County’s shelter-in-
place. PAWIS donated face shields, N95
masks, and surgical masks to the facility.
• Caregivers employed by a health care
agency who were misclassified by their
employer as independent contractors
complained that they were asked to sign a
document stating that, because they are
independent contractors, they were
required to provide their own tools,
including PPE.
Moreover, the Day Worker Center of Mountain
View’s women’s collective, COSERA, began
making masks during the pandemic. The Day
Worker Center of Mountain View and COSERA
provided thousands of locally made masks to day
laborers, domestic workers, hospital workers,
farm workers, and other essential workers. The
Day Worker Center has also provided breakfast
and lunch to workers who are food insecure.
Enrique — a day laborer
"Some employers do not provide PPE and don’t
care about our health and safety. They do not ask if
I need a mask and do not offer to give me a mask or
other PPE. One of the employers who does not
provide PPE is not paying me my wages, and there
are safety concerns at the job site."
Photo Credit: Kristen Jill Aguilar
24
C. Cal/OSHA Standards for Aerosol
Transmissible Diseases: Post- COVID-19
Before this pandemic, Cal/OSHA’s relevant
standard protected only healthcare workers
from aerosol transmissible diseases like
COVID-19. The standard did not apply to
workers in other industries. But as a result of
advocacy by WorkSafe, the Southern
California Coalition for Occupational Safety
and Health, and other organizations, the
California Department of Industrial Relations’
Occupational Safety and Health Standards
Board adopted Emergency Temporary
Standards to protect employees in all
industries from hazards related to COVID-19
[68]. The new emergency safety orders apply
to all employees and places of employment in
California except (1) places of employment
with one employee who does not have contact
with other persons, (2) employees working
from home, and (3) health care employees at
facilities, services, and operations covered by
the previously existing standard on aerosol
transmissible diseases.
The new safety orders require employers to
establish, implement, and maintain an
effective and written COVID-19 Prevention
Program. The key points are as follows:
• Without identifying who tested positive,
within one business day of learning that
someone in the workplace tested positive, an
employer must provide notice of the potential
exposure to all employees and independent
contractors who were either exposed to the
person or present at the worksite during the
exposure period.
• All employees who were within six feet of
someone who tested positive for a cumulative
period of 15 minutes or longer within a
24-hour period must be put on paid leave for
14 days from the last known exposure.
• An employer can require the use of sick time,
paid time off, Families First Coronavirus
Response Act (FFCRA), or other benefit payments
from public sources such as State Disability
Insurance to maintain employees’ pay when they
are on leave, but if they have used all those pay
benefits, an employer must continue paying
the employee.
• An employer must allow employees to return to
work after testing positive once the specified
time and symptoms have passed (different
criteria based on whether the employee is
symptomatic or asymptomatic). An employer
cannot require a negative test before allowing the
employee to return to work.
• In the event of an outbreak (three or more
positive cases within 14 days), all employees who
were in the workplace during the period of the
outbreak must be tested twice: (1) immediately
and (2) one week later. Thereafter, all employees
who remain at the workplace must continue to be
tested at least weekly until there are no more
positive cases for a 14-day period.
• In the event of a major outbreak (20 or more
positive cases within 30 days), all employees who
were in the workplace during the 30-day period
must be tested twice per week until there are no
more positive cases for a
14-day period [69].
Up until the present, Cal/OSHA’s enforcement
has not been robust and has thus disappointed
workers and advocates. Cal/OSHA must strongly
enforce these and other health and safety
standards to slow and prevent the spread of
COVID-19 in the workplace; it must also increase
penalties to help deter violations. Further, these
standards should apply to domestic workers.
Without proper oversight, employers can deny
required health and safety protections to workers
with impunity.
According to unemployment data from the
Bureau of Labor Statistics and minimum wage
data compiled by the Center of Economic and
Policy Research, wage theft rises with the state’s
unemployment rate. The probability that any
given low-wage worker would be paid below
their applicable minimum wage ranged from
about 10 percent to about 22 percent between
2007 and 2013, with each percentage point
increase in the state’s unemployment rate
predicting, on average, almost a full percentage
point increase in the probability they would
experience a violation [70].
Wage Theft Worsens as Unemployment
Rate Increases and Workers Lose Pay
25
Certain industries have been disproportionately
affected by the wave of layoffs. For example,
service sector jobs that depend on face-to-face
interactions or involve bringing together large
numbers of people were among the hardest hit.
This includes industries such as restaurants, fast
food, hotels, domestic work, retail trade, and
transportation services. Workers in these
industries are predominantly immigrants [74].
With the future of the coronavirus still unclear,
companies continue to brace for budget cuts,
resulting in layoffs, reduced hours, and
significantly decreased financial reserves in
many vulnerable households.
Fig. 11: Correlation Between Minimum Wage
Violations and Unemployment Rate Increases
(Source: Equitable Growth) [71]
The Pandemic Has Increased
Unemployment
By June, 2020, California’s unemployment stood
at more than 2.8 million people statewide,
leaving California’s unemployment rate at a
record-breaking 14.9% [72]. In Santa Clara
County alone, there were 118,000 unemployed
workers as of June 2020; the unemployment rate
was 10.7%, compared to 4.0% in June 2019 [73].
Sela—a fast food worker and Fight for $15 member
“Before the pandemic I worked 8 hours, I had
enough to cover the costs for food and rent. When
the pandemic hit they would give us 3 – 3.5 hours. It
is a tragedy because I could not cover my costs for
the kids and I couldn’t pay rent...It’s worrisome.”
Workers have faced difficulty in applying for
unemployment or have had major delays in
receiving their benefits. In a scathing report on
January 26, 2021, the California State Auditor’s
office concluded that EDD’s inefficient processes
and lack of advanced planning led to significant
delays in its payment of unemployment
insurance claims [75].
the pandemic
“It's really not enough with all the monthly bills.
And my stimulus hasn't come yet, and I have to
actually re-apply for unemployment because the
first and second time I attempted to apply, I guess I
was denied. I'm wondering why and it's so
challenging to contact the Department of
Unemployment, you will either wait for very long or
the music will just keep on until you know, until
your battery has exhausted.
Irene — a fast food worker, who was laid off due to
Moreover, undocumented workers were
ineligible for state unemployment or Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance under the federal
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security
(CARES) Act, even though they contribute over
$100.6 million in yearly taxpayer dollars [76].
26
Nonetheless, cities across the State have passed
their own recall and retention laws. For instance,
on April 4, 2017, the City of Santa Clara adopted
Worker Retention Ordinance - No. 1964, which
requires a new contractor in food services or
building services to hire existing workers when
a City of Santa Clara business changes
contractors. On January 12, 2020, the City
Council added hotel workers. Due to the
advocacy of UNITE HERE! and Silicon Valley
Rising, the City Council approved an Emergency
Right to Recall Ordinance that will require
employers in building services, food services,
and hotel services to offer work to workers who
are laid off for economic reasons on or after
March 17, 2020 once a position becomes
available. This Emergency Ordinance expires at
the end of the COVID-19 emergency.
Workers Need Recall and Retention
Rights Because of Job Loss Due to
Layoffs and Businesses Restructuring
Because of the explosion of COVID-19 cases,
businesses have been forced to close for periods
of time or lay workers off permanently. Workers
are also in danger of losing their jobs when
businesses change owners or contractors. Thus,
it is critical that workers have recall and
retention rights, which require employers to
offer laid-off employees their jobs back in order
of seniority, and to retain workers when there is
a change of ownership or contractor.
Miriam — an immigrant worker
“Even though we are undocumented, we pay our
tax diligently, and this pandemic comes --no
support. Not all of us have work now. Many are
jobless right now. It’s hard. We cannot go to the
governor [and say], “Hey can we get support from
you? We are paying taxes.”
Carina — a janitor at Stanford University
“I was happy when I was working, but [COVID-19]
happened and, well, they fired us. Yes, this has
affected me a lot. I am just at home...hoping
that they call me back to work, but they did not
call to let me know if they will give me my job
back ...nothing.”
AB 3216 would have provided a right to recall and
retention to workers in the hospitality industry. It
passed through the state legislature, but at the
eleventh hour, with immigrant workers fasting
and praying on the Capitol’s doorstep, Governor
Newsom vetoed the bill.
The fear of retaliation deters workers from
speaking up about wage theft or filing claims
at the Labor Commission or the Department of
Labor. Without protection from retaliation,
workers will continue to experience wage theft.
The fear of retaliation “is particularly debilitating
for persons with low institutional power across
multiple dimensions. For example, women who
are especially isolated and tokens in their jobs,
women in nontraditional employment, and
women who are especially vulnerable in their
jobs are more likely to be silenced by the threat
or fear of retaliation. The potential for retaliation
increases as the power disparity widens
between a low-status target and a higher
status perpetrator” [77].
A 2009 seminal study of more than 4,000
workers found that one in five workers
“reported that they had made a complaint about
wage theft or attempted to form a union in the
last year” [78]. Of these, “43 percent experienced
one or more forms of illegal retaliation from
their employers or supervisors” [79]. Twenty
percent of workers surveyed did not make
complaints to their employers during that period,
even though they had experienced serious
problems such as dangerous conditions or pay
below the minimum wage, because they feared
retaliation” [80]. In a survey of 275 workers in the
Chicago metro area, workers who took group
action were more likely to experience retaliation
than those acting individually [81].
Fear of Retaliation: Speaking Up About
Wage Theft and Other Workers’ Rights
Violations
27
In California, the Labor Commission reported in
2018 that it received 5,633 complaints of retaliation
and accepted 2,590 for investigation. The
Retaliation Unit ordered payment of $1,989,104.41
in lost wages, $446,834.53 in interest on the lost
wages, and $2,082,500 in penalties. The Retaliation
Unit was able to reach 997 settlements. The Legal
Unit obtained more than $1,023,000 in settlements,
as well as court judgments exceeding $536,457 [82].
Similarly, in its compliance and enforcement
initiative in Bay Area nursing homes and RCFEs,
the Department of Labor (DOL) found that
employees were threatened or harassed if they
questioned their working conditions, some were
specifically instructed not to cooperate with the
DOL investigation, and some were intimidated and
retaliated against for speaking up [83].
The Trump administration fanned the flames of
anti-immigrant sentiment and ramped up
immigration enforcement, including targeting
workers who brought claims against their
employers [84]. Complaints over immigration-
related retaliation threats surged in this
environment. In 2017, the Department of Labor
Standards Enforcement received 94 claims [85],
compared to 20 complaints in all of 2016 and
seven a year earlier [86]. One lawsuit filed by the
Labor Commissioner alleges that a boss
threatened to report a worker to immigration
authorities “several times each year” [87].
Employers have even told the Commissioner’s staff
that they would call ICE on their workers [88].
28
On July 21, 2020, McDonald’s fired Maria
Ruiz, an employee whistleblower who had
reported violations of COVID-19 safety
requirements and, in protest, refused to
work in unsafe working conditions. Ms. Ruiz
and her co-workers reported their concerns
to the Santa Clara County Public Health
Department, Cal/OSHA, and the Labor
Commission, but their manager failed to
remedy the problems. According to Ms.
Ruiz’s lawsuit, instead of addressing their
concerns after the second time the workers
refused to work in unsafe conditions,
McDonald’s retaliated against them by
reducing their scheduled hours and by firing
Ms. Ruiz, the leader of the protests. Ms. Ruiz
filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Santa
Clara County Superior Court on October 16,
2020, and the other three workers have filed
retaliation complaints with the Labor
Commission [90].
The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has
received even more retaliation complaints during
the COVID-19 pandemic. In the six months
following Governor Newsom’s March 2020 stay-at-
home order, the Department of Industrial
Relations’ Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit
(RCI) received more than 300 claims that
mentioned the coronavirus. As of August 2020, at
least 95 of those were under investigation for health
and safety issues, such as complaints for failure to
enforce mask and social distancing mandates [89].
Photo Credit: Wage Theft Coalition
Santa Clara County, San Jose, Sunnyvale,
Milpitas, and Morgan Hill have enacted
legislation that make wage theft violators
ineligible for business licenses, permits,
and/or Certificates of Occupancy. It is a
priority in Mountain View.
The 2015 Wage Theft Report noted that, due to
gaps in enforcing wage theft, local governments
increasingly play an important role in protecting
workers [91]. The Coalition urged Santa Clara
County to implement policies to this end. Many
of those recommendations, as well as other
measures to protect workers from wage theft and
other violations, have been enacted as a result of
the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition’s
advocacy. They are as follows:
Enacted Recommendations
1.
2. Santa Clara County, San Jose, Sunnyvale,
Milpitas, and Morgan Hill have enacted
legislation that prohibits the cities from
contracting with businesses that have not
paid wage theft judgments. It is a priority in
Mountain View.
3. Santa Clara County created an Office of Labor
Standards Enforcement (OLSE) to revoke
health permits of restaurants that do not pay
wage theft judgments.
4. The Office of Labor Standards Enforcement
operates a Legal Advice Line with attorneys
who speak English, Spanish,
Tagalog/Visayan, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and
Hindi/Punjabi. The Santa Clara County Wage
Theft Coalition Coordinator supervises the
Legal Advice Line and answers English calls.
An attorney from PAWIS, a member of the
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition,
staffs the Tagalog/Visayan Legal Advice Line.
The Coalition’s Victories
29
5. The Office of Labor Standards Enforcement’s
Fair Workplace Collaborative coordinates
with community organizations in the Santa
Clara County Wage Theft Coalition to conduct
outreach, education, and awareness. These
organizations include PAWIS, the Vietnamese
American Roundtable, Working Partnerships
USA, and the Day Labor Center of Mt. View.
The Fair Workplace Collaborative also works
closely with Santa Clara County Wage Theft
Coalition member Fight for $15 and a union.
6. In the Cities of San Jose, Mountain View, and
Sunnyvale, the Santa Clara County Wage
Theft Coalition; the Mechanical, Electrical,
Pipe, and Sprinkler fitter trades (MEPS); and
Working Partnerships USA have partnered to
advocate for an ordinance requiring
employers to disclose unpaid wage theft
judgments in order to be granted building
permits and Certificates of Occupancy.
The City of Milpitas voted to approve
such an ordinance on January 5, 2020; the
second reading will take place at the next
Council meeting.
7. The Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
partnered with Fight for $15 to advocate for a
Santa Clara County referral which included 1)
investigation of public health violations and
retaliation in the fast food industry; 2) the
establishment of a task force that includes
workers and advocates; 3) outreach and
education by the community business
engagement team that includes collaboration
with workers and advocates; 4) the use of the
Department of Environmental Health’s power
to revoke restaurant health permits if fast
food restaurants’ lack of cooperation could
lead to imminent harm; and 5) authorization
of a report on these issues by academic
institutions. Board President Cindy Chavez
brought the referral to the Board, and it
passed unanimously.
The Coalition was the original sponsor of AB
1947 (Kalra) when it was first introduced three
years ago. It was signed by the Governor and
went into effect on January 1, 2021. It increases
the statute of limitations for claims brought to
the Labor Commission from six months to one
year and allows the court to award attorney’s
fees for claims brought under the whistleblower
statute, Labor Code 1102.5.
At the state level, the Santa Clara County Wage
Theft Coalition accomplished the following:
1.
30
Photo Credit: Wage Theft Coalition
2. The Coalition was a co-sponsor of AB 3075.
The bill imposes successorship liability on an
employer for any wages or penalties owed by
its predecessor if it uses (1) substantially the
same facilities or substantially the same
workforce to offer substantially the same
services as the predecessor employer; (2)
substantially the same owners or managers
that control labor relations; (3) a managing
agent that controlled the wages, hours, and
working conditions of the predecessor
employer; or (4) a family member of a owner,
partner, officer, or director of the
predecessor employer. The bill was signed by
the Governor.
• The State should require that, at any business
where an employer has retaliated against a
worker for reporting a violation of a COVID-19
health order, the employer must provide just
cause to terminate any worker for a period of at
least six months. This would deter employers
from retaliating against employees for
attempting to ensure their own health and safety,
and would encourage workers to make bona fide
reports of health violations.
Cities should require just-cause termination for
workers in the fast food industry as a model for
just-cause termination and layoff in order of
seniority in other industries. In New York,
Mayor de Blasio signed two bills on December 17,
2021 (effective July 4, 2021) that will prohibit fast
food employers with 30 or more locations from
terminating fast food workers or reducing
regularly scheduled hours by 15% or more absent
“just cause” or bona fide economic concerns, and
will require all layoffs to be in order
of seniority [92].
Policy Recommendations
31
Building upon its policy and organizing
victories in recent years, the Coalition
recommends the following to better protect
workers from exploitation, especially amid the
COVID-19 pandemic:
Protecting Worker Health and Safety
Photo Credit: Wage Theft Coalition
• The State should make domestic workers
eligible for protection under Cal/OSHA’s
Emergency Temporary Standards.
• Federal, state, and local governments should
provide greater financial assistance and
personal protective equipment (PPE) to essential
workers.
• The State and County should implement systems
to flag businesses to which they issue permits or
licenses that have been found in violation of state
and/or federal labor and employment laws within
the last three years. The State and County should
publish lists of these wage theft violators on their
websites.
• The County and State should enact legislation to
authorize all departments that issue permits or
licenses to suspend those issued to wage theft
violators. The County should expand its Food
Permit Enforcement Program to the whole of San
Jose [97] and establish a similar revocation
program for business licenses it will issue.
Further, cities through the County and the State
should enact legislation allowing them to
suspend or revoke building permits and
Certificates of Occupancy for businesses with
unpaid wage judgments; one such ordinance
passed unanimously on the first reading in
Milpitas, and similar ordinances are already
priorities in three cities in the County.
• The County should permit workers with unpaid
wage theft judgments to record wage liens with
the County Recorder similar to the existing
Mechanic’s lien. California should similarly
provide for wage liens statewide [98].
• The State and County should identify in each
department points of contact with workers,
especially low-wage workers. They should
provide workers information about their
employment and other rights.
Wage Theft Prevention
and Enforcement
32
• Under a recent ordinance, the County of
Santa Clara can designate “any sworn peace
officer, County employee, or other individual”
to act as enforcement officers, empowered to
impose civil penalties to individuals and
businesses flouting mandatory COVID-19
health orders [93]. Under this ordinance, the
county should designate workers as
enforcement officers, since they are often
more knowledgeable than third parties about
whether their employers are properly
implementing health orders that may put their
own health at risk.
• Under California state law, COVID-19
Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, which expired
on December 31, 2020, up to 80 hours must be
provided to all employees who leave their
homes or place of residence to perform work
[94]. However, workers who can show that
they continue to suffer from severe symptoms
or that they were reinfected [95] were not
provided any additional paid sick leave. The
state Supplemental Paid Sick Leave should be
reenacted, and workers should be able to
access additional hours of paid sick leave if
they are exposed again or are reinfected.
• The City of San Jose enacted a COVID-19 Paid
Sick Leave Ordinance which requires
employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid
sick leave. It expired on December 31, 2020,
but, on January 5, 2021, the City of San Jose
extended it until June 30, 2021 retroactive to
January 1, 2021 [96]. Other cities should enact
similar ordinances but not limit these
ordinances to 80 hours if the worker is
exposed or reinfected again.
• The State should amend Labor Code Section
1102.5 such that the $10,000 penalty under that
section should be paid to the worker, rather
than the Labor Commission. Additionally,
claims under Section 1102.5 should be available
where any business retaliates against a worker
for reporting a violation of state or federal law,
not only when the business is a corporation or
an LLC.
• The State should amend California Labor Code
Section 238.4 to require the Departments of
Public Health and Social Services to revoke a
new license or deny a renewal if a long-term
care company has an unsatisfied final judgment.
It should further amend the section to require
the Labor Commissioner to forward notice of
unpaid final judgments to the Departments of
Public Health and Social Services if prompted
by advocates.
• Cal-OSHA should issue citations with higher
penalties for health and safety violations.
Currently, Cal-OSHA’s penalties are minimal and
do not act as a deterrent.
• The State should formally consider establishing
a system for wage theft insurance that is funded
by employers and guarantees compensation for
all wage theft violations (similar in some ways to
workers’ compensation insurance) [100]. This
would facilitate compensation for wage-and-hour
violations on a systemic level, rather than
through individual adjudications, and may deter
wage theft in the longer term. For example,
employers could pay regularly into an insurance
fund for wage theft violations at amounts
calculated based on size and industry; employers
with relatively more claims could be required to
make larger payments. The State should consult
with low-wage workers in studying, designing,
and implementing this system, and should
ultimately hire these subject-matter experts as
claims investigators.
33
• The County should convene a working group
of County departments that meet quarterly to
coordinate efforts to address the problem of
wage theft, develop education campaigns, and
strategize about how to obtain compliance
from the County’s violators.
• The County should screen all businesses
receiving a County benefit or recognition to
ensure that wage theft violators are
not eligible.
• The State and County should use
opportunities to promote awareness and
enhance public recognition of
responsible employers.
• The County’s Office of Labor Standards
Enforcement should establish a data group
within its office with demonstrated
competency in data analysis to support
strategic and effective enforcement of
wage theft [99].
Increasing Worker Power and
Employer Accountability
• The State and County should provide support
for the outreach, education, and assistance
that community-based organizations and legal
organizations provide to workers who are
victims of wage theft or other violations.
• The State should enact legislation providing
that retaliation claims filed under California
Labor Code Sections 1102.5 and 98.6 trigger
increased access and inspection rights.
Moreover, upon a prima facie showing of
retaliation, an employer should be prohibited
from terminating a complainant at will, and
should instead be required to provide just
cause for 6 months or a year.
• The County and state should establish
industrial labor boards, which could set
wages, hours, and working conditions across
industries with high rates of wage theft and
low rates of unionization. Given the
prevalence of wage theft, sexual harassment
and assault, health and safety violations, and
the identifiability of business locations in the
fast food industry, Assemblymember Lorena
Gonzalez introduced AB 257, the Fast Food
Accountability and Standards (FAST) Recovery
Act. This would guarantee fast food workers at
large-chain fast-food establishments the
ability to shape industry-wide workplace
standards and empower workers to hold
companies accountable for providing safe
working conditions [101]. Such a standards
board can serve as a template for
other industries.
• In the longer term, American labor law should
be reimagined to provide for a system of sectoral
bargaining, which would increase collective
bargaining coverage. For example, under such a
system, when a worker organization has a
membership of 5,000 workers in a sector or 10
percent of the workers in a sector, the U.S.
Secretary of Labor would—upon request of the
worker organization—establish a sectoral
bargaining panel for the sector. At the panel,
employers would be represented in proportion to
their share of the sector. Sectoral bargaining
agreements would become binding on all firms
and all workers in the sector, subject to review
and approval by the Secretary of
Labor [102].
34
Photo Credit: Wage Theft Coalition
Authors
Michael Tayag, Ruth Silver Taube, Felwina Mondina, Katherine Nasol, Forest Peterson
Contributing Editors, Writers, & Researchers
Jenna Edra, Jai-Ren Bernardino-McGuinness, Ricel Funa, Katrina Manrique, Jeff Stanley,
Joelle Sabater
Graphics & Design
Lina Larionova, Angel Trazo, Chelsea Yuipco, Rhianna Borra-Croft, Wesley Sosa
Photographer Credit
Kirsten Jill Aguilar, Brooke Anderson Movement Photography
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
Carlos Arreola (Day Worker Center Mountain View), Ruth Silver Taube (Katharine and George
Alexander Law Center), Adriana Garcia (MAIZ), Yaya Ruiz (National Domestic Workers Alliance),
Maria Maldonado (Fight for 15), Isabel Fajardo (Fight for 15), Felwina Mondina (PAWIS),
Tess Brilliante (PAWIS)
Stanford for Workers Rights
Serena Liang Jing (Student Activist), Anahi Lopez (Translator and Community Organizer)
Community Volunteers
Lauren Cabantac (Volunteer and Translator), Mara Ibarra (Translator and Organizer),
Nicole Giron (Translator and Organizer),
Karla Rodriguez Beltran (Sociology PhD Student and Activist),
Kirsten Jill Aguilar (Independent Photographer)
Bulosan Center for Filipinx Studies
Katherine Nasol (Policy Director), Melanie Manuel (Policy Intern, Spring 2020),
Ardyel Christian Lim (Policy Intern, Spring 2020), Renee Zapata (Policy Intern, Spring 2020),
Jeff Stanley (Policy Intern, Spring 2020), Jai-Ren Bernardino-McGuinness (Policy Intern, Summer
2020), Katrina Manrique (Policy Intern, Summer 2020), Joelle Sabater (Summer 2020),
Ricel Funa (Policy Intern, Summer 2020), Maxine Gutierrez (Policy Intern, Summer 2020),
Francesca De Las Alas (Policy Intern, 2020 – 2021), Evin Celzo (Policy Intern, 2020 – 2021),
Trisha Talla (Policy Intern, 2020 – 2021), Travis Haskin (Policy Intern 2020 – 2021),
Hal Saga (Policy Intern, 2020 – 2021)
Acknowledgments
35
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: All Industries
Appendix A
36
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Construction, Healthcare, Fast Food, Janitorial, Personal Care,
and Gig Industries (Combined)
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Construction Industry
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Care Home Industry
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Fast Food Industry
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Janitorial Industry
37
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Personal Care Industry
Wage Theft Data for Select Cities: Gig Industry
Cooper, D., & Kroeger, T. (2017, May). Employers steal billions from workers’ paychecks each
year: Survey data show millions of workers are paid less than the minimum wage, at significant
cost to taxpayers and state economies. Economic Policy Institute.
https://www.epi.org/publication/employers-steal-billions-from-workers-paychecks-each-year/
See, e.g., Gould, E., & Wilson, V. (2020, June). Black workers face two of the most lethal preexisting
conditions for coronavirus—racism and economic inequality.
https://www.epi.org/publication/black-workers-covid/. Black and Latinx workers face immense
job security as compared to white workers, and suffer greater exposure to COVID-19 because they
are disproportionately frontline workers.
See reference 1.
California Department of Industrial Relations. (n.d.). Examples of wage theft.
https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Examples_of_Wage_Theft.html
The Labor Commission enforces the California Labor Code. The California Industrial Welfare
Commission also provides 17 Wage Orders for different categories or types of industries and jobs.
The Labor Code and Wage Orders cover minimum wage, lunch breaks and meal periods, waiting
time penalties, and liquidated damages for failure to pay minimum wage. Local jurisdictions or
cities may have higher minimum wages than the state minimum wage. For example, in 2021, the
cities of San Jose and Sunnyvale have higher minimum wages at $15.45 and 16.30, respectively,
compared to the state’s $13.00 for workplaces with 25 or fewer employees and $14.00 per hour for
workplaces with 26 or more employees.
Eastern Research Group, Inc. (2014, December). The social and economic effect of wage theft
violations: Estimates for california and new york. U.S. Department of Labor.
https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/OASP/legacy/files/WageViolationsReportDecember2014.pdf
California Labor Commissioner’s Office. (2018). 2017-2018 fiscal year report on the effectiveness of
the bureau of field enforcement. California Department of Industrial Relations.
https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/BOFE_LegReport2018.pdf
Culliton, K. (2019, February 7). Wage theft doesn’t pay. HRWatchdog.
https://hrwatchdog.calchamber.com/2019/02/wage-theft-doesnt-pay/
Id.
Shannon, G., Silver Taube, R., & Noss, C. (2015). Santa Clara County wage theft report. County of
Santa Clara. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/owp/econ-adv/Documents/wage-theft-report-final-
2014.pdf
Id.
County of Santa Clara. (2019, September 23). County of Santa Clara new enforcement program to
fight for owed wages and food workers’ rights: Initiative enables County to suspend food facility
permits from businesses with outstanding judgments and protect vulnerable workers from wage
theft [Press release]. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/opa/newsroom/Pages/food-permit-09-23-
2019.aspx
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
Endnotes
38
13. Cho E. H., Koonse, T., & Mischel, A. (2013, June). Hollow victories: The crisis in collecting unpaid
wages for California’s workers. National Employment Law Project. https://www.nelp.org/wp-
content/uploads/2015/03/Hollow-Victories-Unpaid-Wages-Report.pdf
14. Shah, H. B. (2017). Understaffed and overworked: Poor working conditions and quality of care in
residential facilities for the elderly. Publications, 4.
https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1789&context=pubs
15. Id.
16. Fuentes, R. (2019). Making workers whole: A retrospective analysis of SB588 and enhanced Post-
Judgment collection in California. Berkeley Journal of Labor and Employment, 40(2), 401–402.
https://doi.org/10.15779/Z387659G13
17. Wolfe, E. (2019, October 10). Efforts to claw back stolen wages painfully slow, as California
employers who cheat workers often get away with it. FairWarning.
https://www.fairwarning.org/2019/10/clawing-back-stolen-wages/
18. Id.
19. See reference 15.
20. Id.
21. The DOL provided the WHD data, the DLSE data were obtained through a Public Records Act
request (June 2019), and the City provided the SJOE data.
22. These data do not include private lawsuits, stop notices, and complaints to the awarding agency,
contractor, employment department, licensing board, or district attorney.
23. Categorizations are based on both documented data and intelligent inferences.
24. See reference 2.
25. Id.
26. Fine, J., Galvin, D., Round, J., & Shepherd, H. (2021, January 14). Strategic enforcement and co-
enforcement of U.S. labor standards are needed to protect workers through the coronavirus
recession. Equitable Growth. https://equitablegrowth.org/strategic-enforcement-and-co-
enforcement-of-u-s-labor-standards-are-needed-to-protect-workers-through-the-coronavirus-
recession/?fbclid=IwAR2jagIp6_PQJMdkyVMOs7irJ4M0lWQ0nMDayZbFCEHuHzre42NPYdnXHQA
27. Id.
28. Id. Graphic reproduced with consent of authors.
29. Henderson, J. (2020, May 27). A profile of frontline workers in Santa Clara County. PolicyLink.
https://www.policylink.org/FrontlineWorkerSantaClara
30. Id.
31. Cabanatuan, M., & Tucker, J. (2021, January 23). New study ranks the riskiest jobs in California
during the pandemic. San Francisco Chronicle.
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/California-s-essential-workers-dying-in-greater-
15893374.php
32. Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC. (n.d.). Labor trafficking: A booming industry in the
United States. https://www.awkolaw.com/labor-trafficking-a-booming-industry-in-the-united-
states/
33. Green, J. (2020, February 6). Santa Clara County: 17 arrested in human-trafficking crackdown.
The Mercury News. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/02/06/santa-clara-county-17-arrested-in-
human
39
34. Id.
35. Id.
36. Id.
37. Id.
38. Geha, J. (2019, January 10). Restaurant owners ordered to pay more than $1 million in back pay to
workers. The Mercury News. https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/01/10/restaurant-owners-
ordered-to-pay-more-than-1-million-in-back-pay-to-workers/
39. Kaplan, T. (2015, November 20). Plight of Saratoga human trafficking victims revealed. The
Mercury News. https://www.mercurynews.com/2015/11/20/plight-of-saratoga-human-trafficking-
victims-revealed/
40. Id.
41. Id.
42. Green, J. (2019, August 29). Saratoga restaurant owners convicted of labor fraud. The Mercury
News. https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/08/28/saratoga-restaurant-owners-convicted-of-labor-
fraud/
43. NBC Bay Area. (2020, November 10). Gilroy liquor store owners charged with human trafficking:
DA. https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/gilroy-liquor-store-owners-charged-with-human-
trafficking-da/2394641/
44. Id.
45. Id.
46. Id.
47. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on
trafficking in persons: Preliminary findings and messaging based on rapid stocktaking.
https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Thematic-Brief-on-COVID-19-EN-
ver.21.pdf
48. San Francisco Department of Public Health – Work Environment Program. (2012). Wage Theft
and Health Fact Sheet in Ruth Silver Taube’s possession.
49. Id.
50. County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. (2020, November 9). County of Santa Clara
officials are calling on the public for strict adherence to safety protocols after seeing sharp uptick
in COVID-19 cases [Press release]. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/press-release-11-9-
2020-call-for-strict-adherence-safety-protocols-covid19.aspx
51. Williams, L. (2021, January 15). Not lovin’ it. Reveal News.
https://revealnews.org/article/mcdonalds-workers-across-us-report-covid-19-safety-breakdowns/
52. Id.
53. Id.
54. Id.
55. Id.
56. Adam Weisberg, SEIU Campaign Director, The Fight for $15. Information in his possession.
57. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors’ January 26 meeting, Item 21, Supplemental Report,
https://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=13201
58. Verrett, A. (2020, August 24). Home care workers are now called Essential. But the history of the
profession shows that the U.S. has never treated them as such. Time.
https://time.com/5882416/home-care-workers-racism/ 40
59. Id.
60. Id.
61. Peele, T., & Sciacca, A. (2020, April 27). Coronavirus: San Jose nursing home reaches nearly 100
cases of COVID-19, deaths in elder care facilities represent 40 percent of overall state total. The
Mercury News. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/04/27/coronavirus-san-jose-nursing-home-
reaches-nearly-100-cases-of-covid-19/
62. Sciacca, A. (2020, November 23). ‘We have no business taking victory laps:’ Just as conditions
were improving, second wave of COVID-19 strikes California nursing homes. The Mercury News.
https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/11/21/we-have-no-business-taking-victory-laps-just-as-
conditions-were-improving-second-wave-of-covid-19-strikes-nursing-homes/
63. Id.
64. Id.
65. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), known as Cal/OSHA, is the
main governmental body tasked with protecting and improving the health and safety of workers.
It sets and enforces standards; provides education and assistance; and issues permits, licenses,
certifications, registrations, and approvals.
66. Shyung, F. (2020, September 21). Domestic workers need laws like SB 1257 for protection. Los
Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-09-21/domestic-workers-
protections-california-sb1257
67. Jabola-Carolus, I. (2020, September). Unprotected on the job: How exclusion from safety and
health laws harms California domestic workers. The Graduate Center, City University of New
York. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1776&context=gc_pubs
68. Standards Presentation to California Occupational Health and Safety Standards Board,
https://www.dir.ca.gov/oshsb/documents/COVID-19-Prevention-Emergency-txtbrdconsider.pdf
69. Id.
70. See reference 25.
71. Id. Graphic reproduced with consent of authors.
72. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.). Unemployment rates for states.
https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
73. Cuevas, E. (2020, July 17). California, Santa Clara County unemployment rates improve, but
uncertainty looms. San José Spotlight. https://sanjosespotlight.com/california-santa-clara-county-
unemployment-rates-improve-but-uncertainty-looms/
74. County of Santa Clara. (n.d.). The contributions of immigrants in Santa Clara County.
https://www.sccgov.org/sites/oir/Documents/contributions%20BB%20text.pdf
75. California State Auditor. (2021, January). Employment Development Department: EDD’s poor
planning and ineffective management left it unprepared to assist Californians unemployed by
COVID19 shutdowns. https://www.auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2020-128and628.1.pdf
76. Chavarin, J. (2017, April 27). Undocumented immigrants’ tax contributions in California: County-
by-County analysis. Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. https://itep.org/undocumented-
immigrants-tax-contributions-in-california-county-by-county-analysis/
77. Brake, D. L. (2005). Retaliation. Minnesota Law Review, 90, 18.
https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=mlr
41
78. Huizar, L. (2019, June). National Employment Law project, exposing wage theft without fear:
States must protect workers from retaliation. National Employment Law Project.
https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Retal-Report-6-26-19.pdf
79. Id.
80. Id.
81. Id. at 5.
82. Huber, P. K. (2018). 2018 Retaliation complaint report. California Department of Industrial
Relations. https://dir.ca.gov/dlse/RCILegReport2018.pdf
83. U.S. Department of Labor. (2015, April 7). U.S. Labor Department Conducts Compliance and
Enforcement Initiative in Bay Area Nursing Homes, Residential Care Facilities [Press release].
https://web.archive.org/web/20190921125044/https://www.dol.gov/whd/media/press/whdpressVB
3.asp?pressdoc=Western/20150407_1.xml; see reference 13.
84. See, e,g., Khouri, A. (2018, January 2). More workers say their bosses are threatening to have
them deported. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-immigration-
retaliation-20180102-story.html; Kitroeff, N. (2017, August 3). Officials say immigration agents
showed up at labor dispute proceedings. California wants them out. Los Angeles Times.
https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ice-california-labor-20170802-story.html (ICE agents
showed up at locations in Van Nuys and Santa Ana looking for workers who had brought claims
against their employers); Ford, Z. (2019, August 8). ICE raids followed a massive sexual
harassment settlement at Mississippi plants. ThinkProgress.
https://archive.thinkprogress.org/ice-raids-follow-massive-sexual-harassment-settlement-
mississippi-plant-koch-foods-d95eb2720f67/. See also, e.g., ICE targets 7-Eleven stores in Santa
Clara as part of nationwide operation. (2018, January 10). The Mercury News.
https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/01/10/ice-targets-7-eleven-stores-in-santa-clara-as-part-of-
nationwide-operation/; Green, J., & Sanchez, T. (2018, February 1). ICE targets 77 Northern
California businesses in undocumented worker crackdown. The Mercury News.
https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/02/01/ice-targets-77-northern-california-businesses-in-
crackdown-on-illegal-workers/; Ahearn, T. (2019, January 18). Form I-9 audits and worksite
arrests by ICE surged in fiscal year 2018. Employment Screening Resources Check.
https://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2019/01/18/form-9-audits-arrests-by-ice/; Buchanan, B. E.
(2019, November 3). ICE is on the warpath against employers with 3,000 I-9 audits in 2 months.
HR Professionals Magazine. https://hrprofessionalsmagazine.com/2019/1;1/03/ice-is-on-the-
warpath-against-employers-with-3000-i-9-audits-in-2-months/; Buchanan, B. (2018, June 20). ICE’s
I-9 audits will increase by 400% in fiscal year 2018. Employment Law Handbook.
https://www.employmentlawhandbook.com/legal-work-status/ices-i-9-audits-will-increase-400-
fiscal-year-2018/
42
85. Su, J. A. (2017). 2017 Retaliation complaint report. California Department of Industrial Relations.
In one case cited in the Report, a worker had previously agreed, during a scheduled hearing in the
Labor Commissioner’s San Diego office, to settle a claim. The worker lived in Mexicali and
crossed the border daily for work. In retaliation for pursuing the wage claim, the employer
enticed the worker to cross the border from his home on the promise of being paid. When the
worker crossed the border, border agents were waiting with paperwork relating to the worker’s
claim filed with the Labor Commissioner’soffice. The worker was detained and he was removed
from the U.S. The report states that “it appears the employer’s primary motivation for requesting
the worker cross the border was to enable immigration enforcement to intercept the worker, thus
allowing the employer to escape his obligation to pay the worker owed wages and penalties.”
86. Khouri, A. (2018, January 2). More workers say their bosses are threatening to have them
deported. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-immigration-retaliation-
20180102-story.html
87. Id.
88. Id.
89. Miller, L. (2020, August 15). COVID-19: Workers face retaliation for demanding safety. Los
Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-15/coronavirus-workers-
retaliation-claims
90. Letter by Alynn Umel, Organizing Director, Fight for $15 and a Union to Santa Clara County
Supervisor Cindy Chavez (November 4, 2020) (with author); McDonald’s accused of firing worker
over strikes for safety gear. (2020, July 22). Bloomberg Law.
https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/mcdonalds-accused-of-firing-worker-over-
strikes-for-safety-gear; Lee, E. (2020, July 24). SJ McDonald’s accused of firing employee over PPE
strike. San Jose Inside. https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/mcdonalds-accused-of-firing-
employee-over-ppe-strike/
91. Shannon, G., Taube, R. S., & Noss, C. (2015). Santa Clara County wage theft report. County of
Santa Clara. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/owp/econ-adv/Documents/wage-theft-report-final-
2014.pdf
92. Troutman, M. (2021, January 5). NYC fast food workers get “just cause” protections. Patch.
https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/nyc-fast-food-workers-get-just-cause-protections. The
first bill is Proposed Int. No. 1415-A, https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?
ID=3860317&GUID=F97F44AA-CCC8-470B-998E-C3C35A5C0717&Options=ID|Text|&Search=1415-A.
The second bill is Proposed Int. No. 1396-A,
https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3860321&GUID=76C5427B-7B33-4E55-
AA73-37345B8ABEEF&Options=ID|Text|&Search=1396-A
93. County of Santa Clara. (n.d.-a). Ordinance No. NS-9.291.
https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/ordinance-ns-9-291.aspx; see also Forestieri, K., &
Lee, L. (2020, August 12). Santa Clara County imposes fines on public health violators as COVID-19
cases surge: Fees come as state threatens penalties for counties that don’t crack down on
breaches. Palo Alto Online. https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/08/12/santa-clara-county-
imposes-fines-on-public-health-violators-as-covid-19-cases-surge
43
94. California Labor Code 248, 248.1; California Department of Industrial Relations. (n.d.-b). FAQs on
California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ-for-PSL.html
95. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Symptoms of coronavirus.
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html; Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.-a). Reinfection with COVID-19.
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/reinfection.html
96. City of San Jose. (2021). Urgency COVID-19 paid sick leave ordinance.
https://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/departments-offices/public-works/labor-
compliance/urgency-covid-19-paid-sick-leave-ordinance
97. For more information on the program, see County of Santa Clara, Office of Labor Standards
Enforcement. (n.d.). Food permit enforcement program - labor standards enforcement - County
of Santa Clara. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/olse/enforcement/Pages/Food-Permit-Enforcement-
Program.aspx. It is currently in Phase I, which is limited to the cities of Sunnyvale, Mountain
View, and the 95112 and 95113 Zip Code Areas of San Jose.
98. For more information on wage liens, see pp. 20, 22-23 of reference 10; see also reference 12.
99. Lee, J. J., & Smith, A. (2018). Regulating wage theft. Washington Law Review, 94, 50. (“[W]hile . . .
data collection and reporting strategies are promising, the successful use of data will largely be
dependent on whether the data itself reflects useful and accurate information, and the ability of
the public, lawmakers, or agency personnel to make good use of it.”); see also, e.g., Johnson, T.,
Peterson, F. O., Myers, M., Silver Taube, R., & Fischer, M. A. (2018). Predicting, analyzing, and
educating on wage theft with machine learning tools. Center for Integrated Facility Engineering
Technical Report #229, Stanford University.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341735963_Predicting_Analyzing_and_Educating_on_
Wage_Theft_with_Machine_Learning_Tools
100. Hallett, N. (2018). The problem of wage theft. Yale Law & Policy Review, 93, 401.
https://ylpr.yale.edu/sites/default/files/YLPR/2_hallett_final.pdf
101. A.B. 257, 2021 Biennium, 2021 Reg. Ses. (CA 2021).
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB257
102. See pp. 3 of Block, S., & Sachs, B. (2020). Clean slate for worker power: Building a just economy
and democracy. Clean Slate for Worker Power. https://uploads-
ssl.webflow.com/5fa42ded15984eaa002a7ef2/5fa42ded15984ea6a72a806b_CleanSlate_SinglePages_
ForWeb_noemptyspace.pdf
44
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Research
Full-text available
This report assesses the prevalence and magnitude of one form of wage theft—minimum wage violations (workers being paid at an effective hourly rate below the binding minimum wage)—in the 10 most populous U.S. states. We find that, in these states, 2.4 million workers lose $8 billion annually (an average of $3,300 per year for year-round workers) to minimum wage violations—nearly a quarter of their earned wages. This form of wage theft affects 17 percent of low-wage workers, with workers in all demographic categories being cheated out of pay.
Black workers face two of the most lethal preexisting conditions for coronavirus-racism and economic inequality
  • E G See
  • E Gould
  • V Wilson
See, e.g., Gould, E., & Wilson, V. (2020, June). Black workers face two of the most lethal preexisting conditions for coronavirus-racism and economic inequality.
2017-2018 fiscal year report on the effectiveness of the bureau of field enforcement. California Department of Industrial Relations
Eastern Research Group, Inc. (2014, December). The social and economic effect of wage theft violations: Estimates for california and new york. U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/OASP/legacy/files/WageViolationsReportDecember2014.pdf California Labor Commissioner's Office. (2018). 2017-2018 fiscal year report on the effectiveness of the bureau of field enforcement. California Department of Industrial Relations. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/BOFE_LegReport2018.pdf Culliton, K. (2019, February 7). Wage theft doesn't pay. HRWatchdog. https://hrwatchdog.calchamber.com/2019/02/wage-theft-doesnt-pay/ Id.
County of Santa Clara new enforcement program to fight for owed wages and food workers' rights: Initiative enables County to suspend food facility permits from businesses with outstanding judgments and protect vulnerable workers from wage theft
  • G Shannon
  • R Silver Taube
  • C Noss
Shannon, G., Silver Taube, R., & Noss, C. (2015). Santa Clara County wage theft report. County of Santa Clara. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/owp/econ-adv/Documents/wage-theft-report-final-2014.pdf Id. County of Santa Clara. (2019, September 23). County of Santa Clara new enforcement program to fight for owed wages and food workers' rights: Initiative enables County to suspend food facility permits from businesses with outstanding judgments and protect vulnerable workers from wage theft [Press release]. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/opa/newsroom/Pages/food-permit-09-23-
Hollow victories: The crisis in collecting unpaid wages for California's workers. National Employment Law Project
  • E H Cho
  • T Koonse
  • A Mischel
Cho E. H., Koonse, T., & Mischel, A. (2013, June). Hollow victories: The crisis in collecting unpaid wages for California's workers. National Employment Law Project. https://www.nelp.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/03/Hollow-Victories-Unpaid-Wages-Report.pdf
Understaffed and overworked: Poor working conditions and quality of care in residential facilities for the elderly
  • H B Shah
Shah, H. B. (2017). Understaffed and overworked: Poor working conditions and quality of care in residential facilities for the elderly. Publications, 4. https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1789&context=pubs
Making workers whole: A retrospective analysis of SB588 and enhanced Post-Judgment collection in California
  • R Fuentes
Fuentes, R. (2019). Making workers whole: A retrospective analysis of SB588 and enhanced Post-Judgment collection in California. Berkeley Journal of Labor and Employment, 40(2), 401-402. https://doi.org/10.15779/Z387659G13
Efforts to claw back stolen wages painfully slow, as California employers who cheat workers often get away with it
  • E Wolfe
Wolfe, E. (2019, October 10). Efforts to claw back stolen wages painfully slow, as California employers who cheat workers often get away with it. FairWarning. https://www.fairwarning.org/2019/10/clawing-back-stolen-wages/
Strategic enforcement and coenforcement of U.S. labor standards are needed to protect workers through the coronavirus recession
  • J Fine
  • D Galvin
  • J Round
  • H Shepherd
Fine, J., Galvin, D., Round, J., & Shepherd, H. (2021, January 14). Strategic enforcement and coenforcement of U.S. labor standards are needed to protect workers through the coronavirus recession. Equitable Growth. https://equitablegrowth.org/strategic-enforcement-and-coenforcement-of-u-s-labor-standards-are-needed-to-protect-workers-through-the-coronavirusrecession/?fbclid=IwAR2jagIp6_PQJMdkyVMOs7irJ4M0lWQ0nMDayZbFCEHuHzre42NPYdnXHQA 27. Id.
A profile of frontline workers in
  • J Henderson
Henderson, J. (2020, May 27). A profile of frontline workers in Santa Clara County. PolicyLink. https://www.policylink.org/FrontlineWorkerSantaClara