AB 1336: Law provides new tools to crack down on wage and benefit theft in the underground economy AB 1336: Law provides new tools to crack down on wage and benefit theft in the underground economy

Contractors who cheat to compete on public works will be less likely to get away with it thanks to AB 1336 (Frazier) signed by Governor Brown on October 14, 2013 and effective January 1, 2014. AB 1336 amends the prevailing wage law in three keys ways: First, it gives the Labor Commissioner and joint labor/management committees (LMCCs) more time to bring back wage and benefit actions; second, it allows greater access to personal identifying information reported on certified payroll records so that LMCCs can match workers to their reported wages and benefits; and, third, it requires courts to order injunctive relief and award back wages, interest, attorneys fees, and in certain circumstances, liquidated damages when a private right of action is brought in court on behalf of underpaid workers.

Current law gives the Labor Commissioner and LMCCs bringing a private right of action only 180 days to file complaints against contractors who underpay prevailing wages.  After January 1, 2014, the 180-day deadline will be extended to 18 months allowing time for workers to come forward and make back wage and benefit claims when they are less vulnerable to retaliation.  This extension in the statute of limitations will also allow more time for investigation by state and private entities often overwhelmed by the volume of wage theft cases.

The amendments to the California Labor Code provisions governing access to certified payroll records contained in AB 1336 will assist groups working to crack down on the underground economy.  There are two key provisions in the bill that will help prevailing wage compliance groups and trust funds assure that workers get the proper wages and fringe benefits. First, joint LMCCs established by unions and contractors to enforce prevailing wages will have access to names and addresses of the workers reported on certified payroll records submitted by contractors under Labor Code section 1776. Second, Taft-Hartley trust funds will have access to names addresses and the last four digits of the workers’ social security number so they are able to match trust payments to workers accounts to assure that each hour worked on a public works job gets credited to the worker who earned it. Currently, there are many instances of wage theft that involve payroll records that do not report all the hours an employee is actually working.  Providing the names of the employees will allow the LMCCs to properly follow-up and determine if the payroll records are fraudulent.

Finally, AB 1336 adds remedies in a private right of action on prevailing wages including injunctive relief, or any other appropriate equitable relief, restitution to an employee for unpaid wages, plus interest, from the date the wages became payable, liquidated damages equal to the amount of unpaid wages owed, and civil penalties if the employer failed to pay the prevailing wage to its employees.

The added time, information and remedies will ensure that workers on public works get paid the wages and benefits they have earned.  To access the entire bill go to: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_1301-1350/ab_1336_bill_20131013_chaptered.pdf

By Patty Gates | November 4, 2013

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