City wage theft law unused in court

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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Fast-food workers complain that they are forced to take less pay than they have earned, but 2-year-old law designed to help them has never been used in court. 

"It makes me miserable knowing that this is my money that I earned and they're only giving me what I think I'm worth," testified fast-food worker Juanita Porter.

In a followup to the protest that shut down several fast-food restaurants in May, fast-food workers filled the City Council chambers to press their demand for a living wage of $15 an hour.

But they also told of employers who refused to pay them for all the hours they had worked.

"I was paid every week for 27 hours but actually ended up working 32 or more," said Caroline Durocher.

That could lead to the revocation of a business license under the city's wage theft law, but the 2-year-old law has never been used to prosecute a case. 

"I think they're hard cases to try, I also think you see we have a city that hasn't maybe dedicated the types of resources to this," said City Council member Mike O'Brien

Council member Nick Licata thinks the city might need a new Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to help workers press their claims. 

"There needs to be the certainty that there will be follow-up," Licata said, "and I think that's one of the biggest gaps going on right now.