In this country, millions work tirelessly for very low wages. Most of the time, they get no benefits like health coverage, a pension, or even paid sick leave. Here in Los Angeles, the wage-theft capital of the country, two-thirds of low-wage workers are unlawfully denied their overtime pay when their weekly hours exceed 40.
Heriberto was one of these workers. He worked at Urasawa in Beverly Hills, ironically one of the most expensive restaurants in the country. Repeatedly deprived of rest breaks and overtime pay, Heriberto was ultimately fired for asking to go home after working a nine-hour shift — with a fever.
Heriberto came to Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project through our partnership with the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance. We filed a wage claim on his behalf and negotiated a sizeable settlement. On top of this, the restaurant was fined for $55,000 for its illegal practices. But the real victory was the leadership role Heriberto accepted, stepping up to educate and encourage other workers to know and protect their rights.
There are millions of workers like Heriberto. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the total amount of money recovered in 2012 for victims of wage theft was at $933 million. Although that is almost three times greater than all stolen in robberies of banks, convenience stores, gas stations, homes and on the street in the same year — it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most wage-theft victims never sue and not all who do are able to collect what is owed them.
Bet Tzedek gives low-wage workers the power to speak up. Since 2001, Bet Tzedek has successfully obtained more than $13 million in stolen wages for more than 5,400 clients. Thanks to our advocates, thousands more were educated about their rights as workers. With each case we take on, more workers are motivated and empowered to hold their employers accountable. Your support makes it possible for more workers like Heriberto to seek justice.