District Attorney Summer Stephan announcing the Workplace Justice Unit on February 22, 2021. Photo via @SDDistAtty Twitter

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office’s newly created Workplace Justice Unit, which investigates and prosecutes workers’ rights cases, was recognized with an achievement award from the National Association of Counties, it was announced Monday.

The unit, established in February, prosecutes cases of unfair business practices, wage and hour violations, payroll tax evasion, wage theft and labor trafficking.

Wage theft crimes may include employers not paying wages earned, paying less than minimum wage, not paying overtime, not allowing workers to take meal and rest breaks, requiring off-the-clock work, taking tips from workers, or misclassifying employees as self-employed independent contractors Labor trafficking is when a person is forced to provide labor or services through coercion, such as violence, threats, lies, fraud, confiscating legal documents, or to pay a debt.

The unit is comprised of a prosecutor, DA’s investigator and paralegal, and was recognized with a 2021 NACo Achievement Award, which honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents, according to a DA’s Office statement.

“We accept this national award on behalf of all workers and those who advocate on their behalf. We appreciate the advocates who have trusted our DA Workplace Justice team with the labor abuses committed on workers,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Wage theft and labor trafficking are serious problems that we are working to contain in partnership with the community. We’re not going to allow workers in San Diego County to be exploited by greedy employers who break the law to line their own pockets and this award confirms we are on the right track.”

To report workplace crimes, visit www.sdcda.org/helping/workplacejustice.

— City News Service contributed to this article

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