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Columbus City Council Creates Wage Theft Commission

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Columbus City Council has voted to create a new commission to investigate wage theft claims.

The new group will investigate companies accused of violating minimum wage laws, failing to pay prevailing wages when required, short-changing workers on overtime, or wrongly listing employees as independent contractors.

The commission can temporarily stop work on a project during investigations, revoke permits, and claw back tax incentives given to companies. It will only be able to investigate companies doing business with the city, however.

“It was important before this pandemic, but I think we’ve seen and had a light shone on the inequities that exist within many wage earners in our own community," Council member Rob Dorans said during a virtual hearing last month.

Experts say low-income workers are more likely to be affected by wage theft, at least in part because they're less likely to speak out.

A paper released this month by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank, said minimum wage law violations increased nearly in lockstep with the unemployment rate during the Great Recession.

"We anticipate the coronavirus recession will result in increased violations. But as high unemployment adds to workers’ desperation to maintain any job, the likelihood that low-wage workers will complain to an enforcement agency will decrease," the report said.