On December 1, 2022, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance protecting workers compensation they are owed by law. Wage theft occurs when a worker is not paid what they are owed under the law or agreement made with their employer.
Gary Warren, political director for the Central South Carpenters said, “It will help responsible employers, taxpayers and workers in Austin. Law-abiding employers are often undercut by bad actors and can’t compete with those who cheat.”
Gary has been working tirelessly to get this passed for several years, so this moment was especially exciting because combating wage theft in construction and holding contractors accountable, has been a top priority for the Central South Carpenters.
Similar laws are happening across the country due to rampant worker exploitation through tax fraud and wage theft and the Carpenters Union is working hard across the US to fight this issue.
This ordinance, an amendment to City Code Title 4, creates a public database of employers who conduct business in the City of Austin with a record of wage theft, and bars them from City contracts. It also creates a new position, the wage theft coordinator, who will assist workers within the city limits with complaints.
In January, Council Member Ann Kitchen sponsored a resolution requesting improvement to the wage theft policy, initiating this ordinance.
“This is very important for our workers in the city”, Kitchen said.
The Texas Workforce Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, & the Travis County District Attorney’s office are taking complaints.
The Travis County district attorney’s office is taking complaints of a criminal nature for prosecution. A request to investigate wage theft can be found on their website under WAGE THEFT. They recommend victims to send a demand letter asking for payment of wages owed before submitting a request.
The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor are handling all other requests.
It is recommended to seek the advice of a private attorney or legal service that handles employment cases.
The city’s website, austintexas.gov, also has information and resources on wage compliance. The website states all laborers working on construction projects must be paid prevailing wage rates for their trade, as set by the U.S. Department of Labor, or the City of Austin minimum wage as established by City Ordinance, whichever is higher.
Any project receiving federal funding is subject to continuous quarterly audits throughout its duration.
Austin is the third city in Texas to pass an ordinance preventing wage theft, following El Paso and Houston.
Check out local media coverage of this important legislative action: