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Sep
2015
22

MAN OF STEAL: Texas Hands Down First Ever Conviction of a Company Owner for Wage Theft

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A landmark decision has been handed down in El Paso, where a jury convicted the owner of Sun City Roofing on charges of wage theft.  The conviction is the first of its kind in Texas under a 2011 law passed by State Senator Jose Rodriguez.  The law, Senate Bill 1024, revised the penal code to allow criminal prosecution in cases where an owner fails to pay back wages in full after receiving notice of such an obligation.  

In a statement following the conviction, Sen. Rodriguez said:

“This conviction is a landmark in the fight against wage theft.  Unscrupulous employers who intentionally steal from employees now know there are real consequences for robbing workers of the pay that they’re owed.”

Sun City owner John Najera avoided the possible 180-day jail sentence due to the fact that he had no prior convictions.  He will instead receive three months probation and pay a $5,000 fine along with the $2,295 of back wages he owes Esteban Rangel, the worker who brought forward the claim.  

According to CBS4, the Labor Justice Committee and the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project — both of which assisted Rangel — still have hundreds of wage theft cases they are pursuing on behalf of other workers.  

The wage theft conviction is the latest sign that Texas is trying to take misclassification seriously. The Workers Defense Project brought the issue into the mainstream and created an environment in which workers can bring forward rights abuse claims without fear. The legislature has even shown a propensity for…bipartisanship.

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