Wage Theft happens when an employer doesn't give their worker the agreed wages, including overtime. Some on the Shelby County Commission are most concerned about the business owners dealing with frivolous complaints, and being overburdened. Those in favor of the ordinance say denying the ordinance, is a poor reflection on the county's leadership.
"Wage theft is any instance which an employer fails to give the employee with the agreed upon wages, not paying minimum wage, not paying overtime," explained Commissioner Steve Mulroy.
Mulroy's ordinance to help support workers failed. The proposed ordinance would force businesses to be more accountable, and recover stolen wages quickly.
While the ordinance focuses on workers, the debate mostly centered on the impact to business owners.
Some say businesses fear the possible probe into their records, which could be used to determine cause for wage theft.
"The way it's written, more government regulation more opportunity for employers to mistreat their employer so that's why I want to make sure we work with the business community," said Commissioner Chris Thomas.
Mulroy says they'll first attempt mediation before probing for cause and possibly citing a business. Only a court would determine wage theft, which could lead to damages and fines.
"At the end of the day, if we don't pass this, if we say there's nothing we can do about wage theft, then I think it says more about us as a County Commission and our failure as a County Commission," said Mulroy.
Three voted against the ordinance, and four abstained. Mulroy plans to fine-tune the ordinance's language, before its next reading in December.
The ordinance covers unincorporated Shelby County, but Mulroy says the city is also working on a similar ordinance.
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