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Texas wage theft legislation advances

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Amarillo, TX -- Stolen wages often go unreported in Texas, and the perpetrators often go unpunished.  Now a state senator wants to amend Texas law to crack down on wage theft.

"Wage theft" is exactly what it sounds like - a dishonest employer refusing to pay workers.  And a new proposal would give the Texas Workforce Commission more power to prosecute those cases.

Wage theft happens across many industries, but in the construction industry in particular , due to the high number of both independent contractors and temporary workers.  so when workers fall victim to wage theft, they often find themselves with little recourse.  but strong workers' rights laws in Texas allow multiple avenues to recoup any losses.

"Our builders take care of the subcontractors," says Lew Bradshaw, the Executive Officer of the Amarillo branch of the Texas Panhandle Builder's Association.  "And if they don't, they can go over to the County and file a lien against that house, and if it were to be sold, they have to be paid before the house can be purchased by a new owner. So there's some safeguards in there for our local people."

Current state law allows the TWC to impose punitive fines on those found to have acted "in bad faith," but it doesn't specify what constitutes "bad faith."

The Payday Law would define the criteria, and demand much higher fines, thereby giving the Workforce Commission sharper teeth.  The local builder's association tells me they have not seen any problems with wage theft in Amarillo, which they attribute to both the job market and the culture.

"The ethics in Amarillo - I've worked all over the state, and the ethics in Amarillo are phenomenal," says Bradshaw.  "People take care of their companies and their employees here. Your handshake is more important than a contract in Amarillo."

Texas Senate Bill 340 was left pending in a House committee this week.  If it were to be enacted, it would take effect September first.

If you'd like to read the bill or an analysis of it for yourself, follow the links attached to this story.

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