Council updates labor laws and business licenses

In non-Uber-related labor news today, the City Council updated the city’s labor laws.  Council member Harrell walked through the highlights of a 175-page bill to strengthen the penalties and remedies for violating workers’ rights. He said that the most important provision was the one that creates a private right of action for workers who believe that their rights have been infringed by their employer.

The bill also increases penalties against employers who violate labor laws — including paid sick time and wage theft.

Harrell also pointed out that the laws are structured to encourage settling claims outside of court, while striking the right balance with strong support for workers.

Council member Licata suggested that this was an important piece of legislation because of the effort put into strong enforcement procedures.

Council member Sawant supported the bill and particularly highlighted her view that wage theft is rampant and believes that the bill’s increased penalties and remedies for wage theft will make a big difference, both as a remedy for those wronged and as a deterrent to employers who are tempted to rob their employees of their rightful wages.

The council voted 8-0 to approve the ordinance.

Council member Licata brought forth a companion bill which restructures business licenses to align them with the now-updated labor laws. In a nutshell, a Title 5 license is now required to collect revenues (and pay taxes) and a new Title 6 license is required to conduct business activities. Infringement of the labor laws could lead to suspension or revocation of the Title 6 license, while still leaving the Title 5 license in place so that a business can continue to collect revenues from accounts receivable while working to regain its Title 6 license. Among other things, this would give a business a means to get the money needed to pay taxes and penalties. The Title 5 and Title 6 licenses will be originally issued together at no additional charge over the existing Title 5 license required today.

The Council also passed this bill 8-0.