Lawsuit: NM not investigating wage theft claims
Lawsuit claims Jose "Pancho" Olivas, worked at a Farmington restaurant from 2014 to 2015, and his employer refused to pay him around $15,000 in wages
ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions isn't investigating certain claims of wage theft nor is the state agency holding employers liable for wage violations, according to a new lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Santa Fe District Court on behalf of four workers and various immigrant advocacy groups said the agency is refusing to look into claims despite the severity of cases and pressure from lawyers. In addition, court documents alleged that the department has an illegal $10,000 cap on investigating claims of wage theft.
One of the workers, Jose "Pancho" Olivas, worked at a Farmington restaurant from 2014 to 2015, and his employer refused to pay him around $15,000 in wages, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said another worker, a blind Spanish-speaking man in Santa Fe, was never paid overtime for a janitorial company and was fired after he asked for his overtime pay.
"Not only does wage theft rob a worker of their ability to take care of their families, it robs New Mexico's already depleted budget of additional revenue, and it puts businesses that are doing the right thing at a competitive disadvantage," said Rachel LaZar, executive director of the Albuquerque-based El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, one the groups named as plaintiffs.
Department of Workforce Solutions spokeswoman Joy Forehand said she had not seen the lawsuit.
Court documents also accused the Department of Workforce Solutions of not investigating or taking any enforcement action on wage claims that go back more than one year.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to require the agency to enforce state law and investigate claims of theft.