A bill to help working people regain lost pay due to wage theft cleared the Senate on Tuesday on a 25-24 vote.
Senate Bill 5355 will give working people a major new tool to recoup lost wages by expanding Washington’s existing wage lien system to include additional industries.
A 2017 study from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that in the 10 most populous states, people earning minimum wage lose on average $3,300 annually to wage theft by employers. Advocates testified in committee that wage theft often disproportionately affects women and people of color.
“Most of the people who experience the worst of wage theft are already living paycheck to paycheck,” said Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) the bill’s prime sponsor. “It’s important for these folks to have another tool to help them get back the money owed to them, and to hold those accountable that have been found liable in incidents of wage theft.”
Under the bill, a worker who has made a claim against an employer for wage theft, can put a hold on an employer’s asset (excluding their personal property) while the wage theft claim is adjudicated. If the worker wins the claim, the worker would take possession of the property.
Construction workers in Washington have had the ability to recoup lost wages in this fashion for over a century. SB 5355 would simply extend this ability to working people in other industries such as retail, landscape, restaurants, and others. The states of Maryland and Wisconsin have similar programs in place to help workers receive the pay they’re due.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for further consideration.