DA Announces Effort to Fight Wage Theft

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WHITTIER (CNS) - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón today announced an agreement with the California Labor Commissioner to bolster the investigation and prosecution of wage theft.

The pact calls on the state's Department of Industrial Relations to identify and refer investigative leads, complaints and referrals of possible violations to the District Attorney's Office for civil and criminal prosecution.

``When hard-working people are not paid the money they have rightfully earned, they lose their ability to feed, clothe and house their families, creating a cascading effect that causes our entire community to suffer along with them,'' the district attorney said in a written statement.

A 2020 study found that up to 21% of the construction workforce -- some 2.4 million workers -- are illegally paid off the books or misclassified as independent contractors, according to the District Attorney's Office, which noted that losses to federal and state treasuries amount to some $8.4 billion.

Frank Hawk, president of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, lauded Gascón for helping to ``fight against wage theft and fraud in the construction industry here in Los Angeles, the majority of which is happening in the multi-family residential housing sector.''

Meanwhile, the district attorney also announced a separate pilot pretrial diversion program with Southwest Carpenters for young adults facing criminal charges.

The program, dubbed ``Ready,'' will provide 20 people between the ages of 18 and 25 with a pathway to a career as a union carpenter with full benefits and a pension, and will partner with Homeboy Industries, Second Call and Volunteers of America to create a pipeline to the union's pre- apprenticeship programs, including a four-week program in Whittier that is geared toward the under-served people of Los Angeles, including the formerly incarcerated, according to the District Attorney's Office.

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