VOICES: Protecting Ohioans’ paychecks from wage theft

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks about the child tax credit during a news conference, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks about the child tax credit during a news conference, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

It’s simple: If you put in the work, you should get paid for it. Yet hundreds of thousands of Ohio workers are cheated out of the paychecks they earned, year after year.

Companies and shady employers use all kinds of tricks to steal workers’ wages. They force them to work off the clock, they leave hours off their paychecks, they pay them off the books, they steal tips, and they deny overtime pay, after workers have already put in the extra hours.

ExploreWage theft: 200k+ Ohio workers aren’t paid minimum wage

This reality is why I introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act, to crack down on companies that steal workers’ wages, and to empower Ohioans to recover the money they earned.

Across the country, dishonest employers steal an estimated $50 billion per year from workers’ legally owed earnings. A new report from Policy Matters Ohio shows that at least 200,000 Ohio workers are punching the clock, day after day, to earn a living – only to be cheated out of their wages.

And we know that the actual numbers are likely much higher. So many workers never report these violations, because they understandably fear retaliation from their bosses if they speak up. Companies hold all the power.

This bill will help level the playing field, and give workers more power to fight back. It will increase penalties for wage theft violations, improve accountability, and expand workers’ rights to their employment records. That includes requiring employers to provide employees an initial disclosure of the terms of their employment and regular paystubs to all employees.

It would raise the damages that workers receive when a company is convicted of violations to triple the owed wages, plus interest. And if the company retaliates against workers who come forward, the damages would go up to quadruple the wages owed.

Dignity of Work means hard work should pay off for everyone – and that means paying workers the wages they’ve earned.

Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.

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