DC Takes Another Look At Wage Theft Prevention Measures

The District of Columbia routinely enacts emergency, temporary and clarification laws to tie up loose ends in existing laws. The most recent example is the Wage Theft Prevention Clarification and Overtime Fairness Amendment Act of 2016 (WTPCOFAA) which went into effect this month. The legislation details wage theft administrative and judicial procedures, increases penalties for violations, and reinforces the notice and recordkeeping requirements of the District’s wage and leave laws.

Wage Theft

Wage theft has been described as epidemic costing workers billions of dollars each year. Wage theft not only cheats workers, it also undermines employers that pay lawful wages, depresses consumer spending, and deprives governments of tax revenues.

Wage theft takes many forms, including not being paid at least the minimum wage rate, not being paid for the full number of hours worked, not being paid overtime, being forced to work off the clock, or not being paid at all. Employee misclassification and not being provided paid sick leave are other forms. Wage violations can be hidden in improperly itemized wage statements and disguised by shady or poor employment and payroll recordkeeping practices.

Despite its already strong wage theft protections, the District continues to crack down on wage theft violators and open remedial avenues to workers.  Workers are paying attention. In 2015, the Department of Employment Services (DOES) received a total of 699 wage theft complaints with over $21 million in compensation at stake illustrating the ongoing scope of the problem.

New Wage Theft Prevention Measures

The enactment of the WTPCOFAA makes many of the District’s temporary wage violation protections permanent.  Specifically, the law:

  • details administrative procedures, legal procedures and remedies in actions to enforce wage and leave laws
  • authorizes the Attorney General and employee representatives to initiate legal actions
  • permanently increases criminal penalties for negligent or willful noncompliance with wage and leave laws
  • allows employers to pay professional, administrative, and executive employees once per month
  • exempts employers from the requirement to record the precise time worked by professional, administrative, and executive employees
  • removes the exemption of parking lot and garage attendants from District overtime laws
  • incorporates federal standards for recordkeeping and requires the Mayor to issue rules for recordkeeping
  • clarifies itemized pay stub requirements
  • changes the requirement that employers or staffing agencies provide to employees notices about the employer and the terms and conditions of employment in English and a second language, to requiring the second language only if the Mayor creates a notice template in another language that the employers knows is the employee’s primary language, or that the employee requests

Be Prepared for an Inspection

The District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES) has the authority to conduct random inspections of businesses and demand business records to ensure full compliance with the District’s wage and leave laws. Therefore, employers should be taking these measures:

  1. Maintain a file for each employee and keep for three years a record of the employee’s name, address, occupation, the rate of pay, and the amount paid each pay period, and, for hourly workers, the precise time worked each day and each workweek.
  2. Ensure employees’ pay statements contain the date of the wage payment, gross wages paid, deductions from and additions to wages, net wages paid, and hours worked during the pay period.
  3. Provide each new hire and current employee the District’s “Notice of Hire” template informing employees of the terms of their employment each time the information changes and obtain their signed acknowledgement.
  4. Watch for new hire notices to be published in additional languages. Download the Notice to Hire templates from our Free Downloads page in English and Spanish.
  5. Ensure that the required employment-related posters and notices are posted in conspicuous places easily accessible to employees.

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