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Wage Theft Already Is a Crime in California

Ashley Hoffman Labor and Employment

California employers must navigate the nation’s toughest labor and employment laws.  Long before the introduction of AB 1003 (Gonzalez), California already deemed wage theft a crime.  It is absurd to think a progressive state like California would not have already addressed this issue.

In 2012, Labor Commissioner Julie Su created the Criminal Investigation Unit within the agency to specifically focus and prosecute employers who steal wages from employees.

In 2014, Commissioner Su partnered with CalChamber and the Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, to launch a statewide campaign called “Wage Theft is a Crime.” A top Labor Federation official stated, “We stand together with the Chamber because we agree that wage theft is a crime and their support acknowledges that it’s not fair and it’s not right for responsible employers who are trying to abide by the rules to compete against employers whose business practice, and whose whole business model is to cheat workers.”

The website,, is still active, and since 2014 has stated:

“The Labor Commissioner’s Office inspects workplaces for wage and hour violations, adjudicates wage claims, and investigates retaliation complaints. Wage theft is a crime – the Labor Commissioner’s Office can partner with other law enforcement agencies to criminally prosecute employers that engage in wage theft.”

In 2015, CalChamber worked alongside unions to enact SB 588 (De Leon), further enhancing the Labor Commissioner’s tools to address wage theft, such as allowing the Commissioner to place a lien of up to 10 years on any of the employer’s property in California to satisfy wages owed to an employee; requiring an employer to post a surety bond if they haven’t paid a final judgment within 10 days; allowing the Labor Commissioner to issue a stop order if any employer operates without a bond; allowing the Labor Commissioner to impose successor liability for unpaid wages, so that an employer cannot shut down and reopen as a different company to avoid liability; creating joint and several liability for listed employers; and imposing personal liability for managing agents of employers.  Read More

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