A new bill signed into law in California will make the theft of employee wages by an employer a possible felony. Assembly Bill 1003 was written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and signed by the governor on Sept. 27. The new law is meant to be a deterrent and will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Theft of employee wages is now grand theft
Up until now, the intentional theft of employee wages by an employer was always considered to be a misdemeanor. Under the new law, prosecutors may decide whether to charge an employer with misdemeanor or felony grand theft. While prosecutors may only sentence an employer to pay a fine, the employer also runs the risk of jail time.
Possible jail time
If convicted of a misdemeanor grand theft charge, an employer could be sent to county jail for up to one year. A felony grand theft charge has a maximum jail sentence of up to three years. Employers may also be ordered to pay a fine in addition to their jail sentence.
The law applies to all employers
All employers are subject to the new stricter employment law, including small business owners with just one employee. The law also includes employers that hire independent contractors.
Employees can still file a civil complaint
An employee who would like to file a civil complaint for financial compensation of wage theft can still do so under the new law. The new law may also require employers to pay back unpaid wages as restitution. Employees who have been denied wages, benefits or gratuities by their employer may file a complaint even if criminal charges haven’t been filed yet.