News Dec 22, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Seattle's Office of Labor Standards Has Recovered $7.5 Million for Workers This Year

When bad bosses get greedy with their workers' wages, Seattle's Office of Labor Standards makes them pay. iStock/Getty Images Plus



Many years ago I was working as a contractor at The Westin (which used to be a very nice hotel). The company I was working for went bankrupt, and a new company hired us, but they were very sketchy and stopped paying us. Back in those days, you could file a complaint with Labor and Industries, and they would reimburse you (L&I also paid all my bills when I was injured on that job)

It's good to know that there's now a department in city government that addresses wage theft. If it weren't for Papa Vel-DuRay I wouldn't have known that L&I even existed.


@1: When it was the Washington Plaza Hotel with Trader Vics? It was glamours.


I second Mrs. Vel-DuRay’s sentiment concerning Seattle's Office of Labor Standards. I well recall when we voters demanded the Paid Sick and Safe Time law, and to raise Seattle’s minimum wage. There’s no point in having laws without law enforcement, and I am glad the city recovered the money stolen from workers.

That said, it seems implausible that wage theft could exceed “all other forms of theft combined” in Seattle. (The link connects to a national study from 2014, which contrasted wage theft only with “robbery,” not “all other forms of theft combined.”) For one example, package theft alone accounts for about $19.5 billion annually across the United States, and Seattle-Tacoma trails only San Francisco in having packages stolen. ( For another, thefts of catalytic converters were still going strong well into 2032 in Seattle. (The Stranger’s mockery towards victims of these thefts did nothing to reduce their costs.)


There is zero excuse for wage theft, to be clear. When it happens it is generally fairly obvious, and quantifiable. However in terms of workplace related malfeasance in the form of theft, I would wager that time theft in the form of worker-initiated theft of time from employers for work not done vastly exceeds the wage theft numbers and is more insidious.

In my business owning days that ended several years ago, I observed falsification of time-sheets even to the extent of claiming to have shown up at work when electronic evidence (office building key card entry reports) proved otherwise. I saw falsification of data that generated unearned sales commissions. I routinely saw people sitting at their desks texting in plain sight, routinely and frequently, far more and longer than would be expected for a quick check-in - what time are you home or whose cooking dinner tonight sort of thing.

And this was all long before COVID and work from home, where I KNOW from direct admission of people I chat with today, that they are not giving their employers the benefit of the bargain, and lallygagging on the company's dime. Some are not happy about this, as it is soul-sucking and guilt inducing, and to a degree it is a management issue as well as an act by the worker. How many Stranger readers are reading this article and comments during the work-day from home on the company dime, and giving not 100%, but perhaps 60% to the job that pays their rent and health insurance?

I was a fairly trusting employee, who did not monitor key-strokes or ride herd on staff. I trusted them and the majority of time this trust was deserved and well-earned. But these examples fairly jumped out at me and could not be unseen, leaving me to wonder how much more there was. And I also wondered how many hours professional vendors turned in that were inflated at our expense - like attorneys, outside contractors and the like.

I don't want to get into an argument with Will or readers on numbers and dollars. Each person knows where they fit and stand and if they truly have the moral high-ground over sleazy employers that should be held to account. Unfortunately I did not have the availability of a legal system of sanctions and fines. All I had was the ability to fire, which was never fun. I suspect anyone who has had the pleasure and challenge of managing others has their own stories.


@1 "Back in those days, you could file a complaint with Labor and Industries, and they would reimburse you"

Pretty sure you still can, although lost/stolen wages aren't replaced entirely (and never have been, as far as I know). I filed an L&I claim for $1,500 in the early '00s after an employer fled the state, and got about half of it.


Also, glad to see the Stranger acknowledge at least some of Seattle’s laws as just, and applauding their enforcement. Far too many times of late, the Stranger has played directly into the hands of right-wingers, by treating habitual criminals as the only persons worthy of sympathy. This undermines support for reforms of police and prisons.

Again, I’m glad to see the Stranger supporting Seattle’s laws, especially laws which protect workers.


"...the largest source of theft in the city, so massive that it eclipses all other forms of theft combined: wage theft."

Yeah, right. This assertion only makes the big boys and girls at the top laugh. The big money is thieving and looting the New Plantation Economy enabled by the Reagan Restoration, maximizing economic injustice via obscene tax cuts and reckless deregulation. The big theft is that while wages stayed flat in real terms since the 1970s for most everyone, with housing, education and healthcare costs skyrocketing, and the bottom 10% actually lost ground, the top 10% doubled, the 1% quadrupled and the .01% are launching spaceships.


I thought the police and enforcing laws are why we want NTK. No enforcement for anything including wage theft. It’s equity that caused the owner of the company not paying your wages so too bad.


Raindrop, I'm not quite so old that I would have been able to have been employed at The Washington Plaza, but I was around after the north tower rose, and the whole thing became the Westin, with its two restaurants and three bars (including the Trader Vic's and the disco named "Fitzgerald's on Fifth", along with a foufy "wine bar" on the upper level of The highly-acclaimed Palm Court Dining Room)

I was working at The Westin the last night of Trader Vic's. I, along with most of the other staff, and scores of retirees and hangers-on showed up once they announced that they were giving all the remaining booze away. Such a lovely goodbye...

CKathes dear, It's entirely possible that Westin made up the difference in our wages, since our presence there was pretty much essential for their banquet and convention business. All I know is that we were made whole.

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