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Lawmakers Propose Plan To End “Wage Theft”

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If you do the work, you should get all the pay. That’s the message of Democratic lawmakers in Lansing. They announced a package of bills Monday aimed at preventing what they call wage theft by employers. Cheyna Roth has more.

Wage theft is what happens when an employer finds way to keep money you earned on the job. Like not giving you all your tips or making you work off the clock.

“Because ensuring bigger paychecks also means doing everything we can from keep hardworking people from being ripped off,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint). “That sounds like a pretty simple concept but unfortunately the crime known as wage theft cheats workers out of pay every single day.”

The legislation would do several things – including increase the penalty for employers who retaliate against whistleblowers.

Lauren Rosen was fired from a job at a restaurant that she says was stealing from employees. Rosen says her former co-workers were too afraid of losing their jobs to speak out.

“Eventually we began discussing our lifestyles, financial situation and how much each of us had to lose by coming forward and demanding compensation and better working conditions,” she said. “Every single worker expressed they were afraid citing retaliation and termination.”

Rosen eventually did confront her employer, and she was promptly fired. That’s despite a good work record, she said.

“I do feel like if this legislation was passed that my employers might have thought twice about firing me for those reasons,” Rosen said.

Michigan employers steal over 400 million dollars from their employees every year. That’s according to a report from the nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., Economic Policy Institute, from May.

The legislation would increase criminal and financial penalties for employers who commit wage theft. It would also provide more resources to the state department in charge of overseeing employers in Michigan. Lawmakers plan to formally introduce the bill package later this week. 

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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