VICTORY for Maryland's Low-wage Workers!
On May 16, 2013, Maryland Governor O’Malley signed historic legislation providing Maryland workers a critical new legal tool – a wage lien – to recover their wages when they have not been paid what they earned. Maryland is one of only a handful of states to provide workers this key protection.
The Public Justice Center (PJC), and key allies, drove the campaign to draft and win passage of this historic bill – a victory that will serve as a model for states around the country. Early technical and strategy support from the Center for Popular Democracy helped ensure the bill’s passage this year.
This victory is critical for the hundreds of thousands of low-income workers in Maryland who do not receive minimum wage or overtime – and lose about 15% of their annual earnings to wage theft by unscrupulous employers.
The new wage lien provides workers the option of “freezing” the employer’s assets before filing a court action – a step that dramatically increases the likelihood the worker will actually recover what he or she is owed. For low-wage workers who are victims of wage theft, most who live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to hire an attorney or wait months or years for a judgment, this new law is a game-changer.
When workers do file a complaint, employers often hide or sell their assets to avoid paying or simply ignore a judgment requiring them to pay the worker. Under the new law, the lien will keep the employer from selling, hiding or disposing of their property until the wages are paid, encouraging them to pay up quickly.
The PJC will now work on implementation of the new law, and an ambitious education campaign for workers and employers about the new legal tool. Together with the Center for Popular Democracy, the PJC will support other organizations around the country to replicate this historic victory.
Thanks to key partners, including sponsors Del. Benjamin Barnes and Sen. Victor Ramirez, the workers and advocates who submitted testimony, and Professor Elizabeth Keyes and her students at the University of Baltimore School of Law for drafting a report on wage theft in Maryland.