Wage theft, pay stub bill advances

A bill intended to provide protections and remedies for victims of wage theft advanced from general file March 6.

As introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, LB560 would require employers to provide employees with an itemized statement listing their wages and deductions on each payday and give 30 days’ written notice before altering an employees’ wages.

A Business and Labor Committee amendment, adopted 27-0, removed provisions that would have prohibited retaliation against individuals who oppose an unlawful employer practice or who testify, assist or participate in an investigation, proceeding or hearing.

Also removed was a proposed requirement that employment records be kept for at least five years if an employer is under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act or longer if required by the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. The amendment also clarified that investigatory and subpoena powers would be limited to information that is relevant and reasonable in scope.

In addition, the amendment replaced the original criminal penalty with a civil penalty similar to those provided under the Contractor Registration Act. The fine would be $500 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for subsequent offenses. Employers could contest a citation.

Mello said Nebraska lags in providing employees protection from wage theft. He cited a study that found over 60 percent of low-wage workers suffer from some type of wage violation on a weekly basis.

“Working families in lower wage sectors can far too easily fall victim to wage theft in Nebraska,” he said.

Mello said the amended bill would provide the state Department of Labor the ability to investigate violations of existing wage theft laws and enforce the law through administrative procedures.

Provisions of LB903, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, also were added to the bill by the committee amendment. The provisions would require an employer to deliver or make available to each employee, on each regular payday, a statement of hours worked, wages earned and deductions made. An employer would not be required to provide the information for employees who are exempt from overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher offered an amendment that would have exempted employers in cases where an employee works no more than 40 hours a week and is paid a fixed gross amount each week that is at least the minimum wage.

Schumacher said the bill’s wage statement provisions would be an excessive burden on small business owners and that the exception outlined in his amendment would not harm LB560’s intent.

“There is no sense under the sun that we should make it any more complicated than it should be,” he said.

Lathrop opposed the Schumacher amendment. The bill would not require small businesses to engage in a needless amount of additional paperwork in order to comply, he said. Instead, it simply would require employers to provide specific wage information to their employees on a regular basis.

“I don’t know how to make it more simple,” Lathrop said. “We’re not burdening business. We do this stuff; we calculate people’s pay before payday – just tell them what it is.”

The amendment failed on a 16-18 vote.

Following adoption of a technical amendment offered by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith on a vote of 31-0, lawmakers advanced LB560 to select file 28-4.

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