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Updated: City Council Passes Anti-Wage Theft Bill


Updated: City Council Passes Anti-Wage Theft Bill

Updated, November 12, 2015

Today, Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to pass Councilman Bill Greenlee’s anti-wage theft bill, which increases penalties on employers who commit acts of wage theft and helps workers collect the wages they are owed. In response to the passage of the bill, Community Legal Services (CLS) has issued the following statement:

This new law will help send a message that wage theft will not be tolerated in our city. Philadelphia has taken a vital step towards stopping wage theft and we commend City Council for voting to pass this bill and protect workers.


Original Post, October 8, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – Today, Philadelphia City Councilman William Greenlee proposed an ordinance to protect workers by increasing penalties on employers who do not pay their employees the wages they are owed. Community Legal Services (CLS) supports the ordinance and is calling on Philadelphia City Council to pass the bill into law in order to prevent wage theft.

Wage theft, or the illegal non-payment or under payment of wages, is a pervasive problem hurting tens of thousands of low-wage workers in Philadelphia.  A recent report released by the Sheller Center, unmasks the shocking, but exceedingly common problem facing low-wage workers in Philadelphia and statewide.

According to the report, it is estimated that in any given work week:

  • There are 93,000 instances of wage theft in Philadelphia, including overtime violations, shorting hours, and minimum wage violations.
  • Philadelphia employees who are victims of wage theft are estimated to lose 15% or more their paychecks. This means low-wage workers lost about $51 – $87 per week.
  • Throughout Pennsylvania, employees lose anywhere from $19 million to $32 million each week due to wage theft.

In response to the report’s findings, CLS called for solutions to help end wage theft. CLS has advocated for statewide and citywide anti-wage theft measures to protect workers and the economy. CLS has represented thousands of workers in wage theft cases.

Although wage theft is illegal, the proposed anti-wage theft ordinance is meant to be an additional, easy method for workers to be able to reclaim their unpaid wages.  It would create a new position of Wage Theft Coordinator within the Managing Director’s office, in order to make it easier for workers to file complaints about wage theft.  The law would strengthen financial penalties against employers who do not pay their employees the wages they are owed. In addition, the city will have the authority to deny, suspend or revoke any license or permit if the applicant is found guilty of wage theft and the judgement has not been satisfied.  An applicant for a license with the city must certify that they have not been found guilty of wage theft.  Every employer must also give notice to each employee that they are entitled to file a complaint for unpaid wages.  Lastly, this ordinance also includes protections for the complainant against retaliation and discrimination and a private right of action.

“The current law is inadequate, but this new ordinance is a great step towards protecting workers” said Community Legal Services attorney Michael Hollander. “Increasing penalties against employers who are skirting the law is a vital way to combat wage theft.”

Added Community Legal Services attorney Nadia Hewka, “We commend Councilman Greenlee on his action to end wage theft, and we are hopeful that City Council will pass this bill to protect workers and our economy.”

As the Sheller Center’s study shows, wage theft not only hurts workers, but it is also harmful for the city and its residents. The economy suffers when employers steal from low-wage workers because this money would otherwise be spent in the local economy. Stolen wages deprive the city of valuable tax revenue, which is needed in order to fund vital social services. Wage theft also penalizes law-abiding businesses who are at a competitive disadvantage compared to employers that break the law.

CLS is encouraged by the introduction of this anti-wage theft ordinance and is hopeful that City Council will quickly pass the bill, in order to ensure that workers are paid the wages they are owed.

More information:

Information about wage theft and how CLS is working to stop it

Shortchanged: How Wage Theft Harms Pennsylvania's Workers and Economy

Wage Theft in Philadelphia

Wage theft hits those who can least afford it

Report: Pennsylvania employers stealing millions from workers every week

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About Community Legal Services, Inc.:

Community Legal Services, Inc. was established by the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1966. Since then, CLS has provided legal services to more than one million low-income Philadelphia residents, representing them in individual cases and class actions, and advocating on their behalf for improved regulations and laws that affect low-income Philadelphians. As the city's largest provider of free legal services, CLS assists more than 11,500 of Philadelphia’s poorest residents with their legal problems each year. For more information, contact 215-981-3700 or visit