Municipal Government

Easier to Raise Minimum Wage Than to Enforce It

April 30, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel 

Seattle, WA – Cities and states that have raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour are having a hard time enforcing the law to ensure that employers actually pay it. “It's pretty shocking how common the violations are," said Donna Levitt, director of the labor enforcement office in San Francisco, which began raising its minimum toward $15 last year.

Two problems are that state and federal laws don’t require employers to provide information on workers’ hours and pay, so investigators have to wait for individual workers to complain about being shorted—and many are afraid to risk their jobs. “There's just not enough boots on the ground to wipe it out, because the problem is so enormous,” said Haeyoung Yoon of the National Employment Law Project. Sea-Tac, Washington, the first city to set a $15 minimum, has largely outsourced enforcing its 2014 law to the courts, with more than 10 class-action suits pending. In Oregon, newly hired investigators will likely concentrate on industries with a pattern of wage violations, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said, and California already has a similar law. But New York's Labor Department will wait for workers to complain. Read more

April 29, 2016

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