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San Diego County Restaurant Workers Report Wage Theft

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SHORTED: Wage Theft, Time Theft, and Discrimination in San Diego County Jobs

SHORTED: Wage Theft, Time Theft, and Discrimina...

New survey on wages in San Diego's restaurant industry by SDSU and the Center on Policy Initiatives

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A new study finds that some of the 125,700 restaurant workers in San Diego County are getting short-changed on their earnings.

The study by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego nonprofit that advocates for the working poor, and San Diego State University's Sociology Department found 77 percent of the 337 workers surveyed have been victims of wage theft during the past year, with a third saying it happens regularly.

“In this pilot study, overwhelming numbers of restaurant workers reported they had been cheated of money they are owed in wages and tips, as well as their break time and personal time, ” Jill Esbenshade, SDSU professor and lead investigator, said in a news release.

Esbenshade told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday the study was conducted with the help of 18 graduate students who found restaurant workers throughout the county to take the survey. Of those surveyed, 30 were given in-depth interviews.

In response to the study, the California Restaurant Association said it has zero tolerance for wage theft, discrimination or any illegal practices.

"The CRA provides many resources to ensure our members do not engage in these activities. Unfortunately, this study combines potential legal violations with the authors’ blatant political agenda,” said Chris Duggan, director of local government affairs in San Diego for the restaurant group. "Any violations of current law are concerning. California has a number of laws and departments in place to address and enforce workplace regulations. The California Restaurant Association will continue to provide our members and the industry with the resources they need to ensure 100 percent compliance with these regulations.”

Peter Brownell, research director at the Center on Policy Initiatives, said the study’s only agenda was to make the information known.

“I absolutely agree we feel this is important,” Brownell said on KPBS Midday. “We certainly do have the agenda that people should be paid for what they are owed.”

Among the study's findings:

• 60 percent reported working unpaid and off-the-clock either before or after their recorded work hours.

• 30 percent reported working overtime without being paid the required time-and-a-half rate.

• More than three-quarters of those surveyed reported they have gone to work when they’re sick, injured, or in pain.

• Wage theft most often targeted women, Latinos, and “back-of-the-house” staff.

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