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San Diego County’s Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement and a state office on Thursday announced an effort to return stolen wages to workers.

County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chair Terra Lawson-Remer said wage theft costs local workers millions of dollars, but cited the new OLSE and a proposed wage theft fund as steps being taken to support workers.

“These rules help you because unscrupulous employers who cheat their employees have an unfair advantage and honest companies can’t compete. So together we can change that,” she said.

The District Attorney’s office opened a Workplace Justice Division in 2021.

“When your wages are stolen, if they’re under $950 that is still a crime, a misdemeanor crime,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan at Thursday’s news conference. “But if it’s over $950, that’s a felony crime that your DA’s office is going to bring and there’s real accountability.”

The state Labor Commissioner’s Office is also making changes to ensure that workers know their rights, especially those in underserved communities. Officials have launched an public-service campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.”

“We need to get out of our offices and go out into the community and meet workers where they are. All workers, not just workers who know their rights,” said Lilia García-Brower, the California State Labor Commissioner. “It is our obligation to get to them because if workers don’t understand their rights, how are they going to exercise them? So outreach is foundational to enforcement.”

Brandon Butler, deputy director of the county’s labor standards office, said the county has implemented anti-wage theft rules and created the Fair Place Collaborative “bringing together both businesses and worker advocacy organizations and stakeholders to help chart the course for our office,” he said.

Federal investigators announced this week that they had collected more than $1.5 million in back wages and damages from three San Diego companies found to have stolen wages from nearly 100 workers.

For additional information on workers’ rights and how to file a claim, you can reach the county Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement through its advice line at 619-985-1597 or at

City News Service