TT: Texas Cities Step Up Prosecutions of Wage Theft

"HOUSTON — For two years, Diego Gala, a Mexican immigrant in the country illegally, worked five days a week cleaning a private school for less than minimum wage. His employer refused to pay him overtime even when he was forced to work on the weekends. Gala did not speak up, fearing deportation if he reported his boss.

'I couldn’t say nothing because I did not have papers,' Gala said. 'So he was like, "If you say something, you can just get deported. I can call immigration on you, or you can get fired."'

Gala, who was brought to the United States as a small child, grew up not knowing his immigration status until it came time for him to find a job. Workers’ rights advocates say that is not unusual; wage theft is a major problem in Texas, particularly among undocumented workers who do not push for their rightful earnings for fear of drawing the attention of immigration officials.

During the 2011 legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1024, which closed a loophole allowing employers to escape prosecution if they had paid employees only a portion of the wages owed. But now that the law is in effect, organizations and lawmakers in at least three Texas cities — Austin, El Paso and Houston — are facing a new challenge: how to ensure that the prosecution of wage theft is a priority." Read more …

 

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