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New California bill would aid wage disputes

Construction workers may soon have increased abilities to reclaim back pay if they were stiffed by a contractor. The California bill, which has passed the Senate and the Assembly, is now on the Governor's desk. It would allow construction workers to seek lost wages and benefits from the general contractor, even if they did not directly work for the contractor. Many wage disputes occur when the subcontractor skips town or declares bankruptcy to avoid paying workers. 

The bill was heavily lobbied and passed with a wide margin. Unions have said that the bill gives low-level workers a new legal option when subcontractors renege on their agreements to pay them. Industry experts say the measure could dramatically increase the cost of building. 

Opponents also feel that the measure is unfair, as it would place the responsibility for employment issues on a company that did not even control the worker. A follow-up bill is also expected, which will clarify one point. The follow-up will make it explicit that the general contractor is not responsible for penalties that resulted from the subcontractor's failure to pay. 

The bill, should it be signed into law, will alleviate some wage disputes in the California construction industry. It will give options to individuals who may have been out of luck before. For some, wage theft is an issue that they will want to take to court. In that circumstance, a person may choose to consult with an attorney for guidance on the current legislation surrounding the employment issue. 

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Builders responsible for construction wage theft in CA bill", Alexei Koseff, Accessed on Sept. 27, 2017

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