DMV Survey Collection: Wage Theft Version

*On this collection, the writer will discover the variations in particular areas of the regulation between D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and hopefully reply the age-old query: which state is greatest for workers? Please do not forget that this weblog submit, like all of our posts, gives normal info and is NOT authorized recommendation.

Upon studying this title, your first query in all probability is not “what’s wage theft?” and that’s as a result of it sounds self-explanatory. (The essential reply is: your employer owes you cash that you simply’ve earned for work carried out after which refuses to pay you.) Nevertheless it’s not so easy whenever you get into the weeds of what precisely counts as a “wage”? Does it embrace paid trip time? Does it embrace commissions? Or severance pay? The reply to all of those questions is (a lawyer’s favourite reply): it relies upon. It relies on the jurisdiction (or state) and it relies on what’s in your employment contract, worker handbook or different documentation that outlines what you’re entitled to as an worker of Firm X. What counts as a wage can also be knowledgeable by what your employer owes you in cost. For instance, some courts ask: is that this cost obligatory beneath your contract when you fulfill your duties or is it a “discretionary cost”? In different phrases, in case you are a commissioned worker, is your fee robotically paid out upon your making a sale in your territory or does your employer have discretion to extend or lower that cost or deny it altogether? In case your employer reserves the precise to disclaim you that fee, then it will not be thought of a wage.

With that introduction, lets discover the relevant wage theft legal guidelines in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The District

The District of Columbia Wage Cost and Assortment Regulation (“WPCL”), could be discovered at D.C. Code §§ 32-1301 et seq. The statute’s definition of “wages” contains “all financial compensation” and explicitly covers bonuses, commissions, money “fringe advantages”, additional time premiums, and any “different remuneration promised or owed” pursuant to an employment contract or relevant District or federal regulation.  That broad definition is borne out in a few of the District’s case regulation, the place judges have discovered that along with an worker’s common wage or hourly wage, shifting stipends and different relocation bills could be wages,[1] team-based gainsharing bonuses are wages,[2] and typically severance funds could be wages.[3] That stated, there are circumstances the place bonuses or commissions are discovered to be “discretionary” and they also will not be wages beneath the regulation.[4]  The stand-out provision of DC’s regulation, is that if the worker prevails and has requested treble damages (or 3 times the quantity owed) the court docket should award that quantity.[5] Legal professional’s charge awards can be found.


The Maryland Wage Cost and Assortment Regulation (MWPCL) could be discovered at MD Code, Labor and Employment, § 3-501 et seq. and accommodates a equally broad definition of wages, like DC’s statute, together with bonuses, commissions, fringe advantages, additional time wages, or “every other remuneration promised for service.” The Maryland case regulation appears much like that of D.C. in some respects, with judges discovering that, in the precise circumstances, severance funds could be wages,[6] journey bills could be wages,[7] and bonuses or incentive funds could be wages.[8] As well as, like in D.C., for figuring out violations of the Act the place there isn’t a “bona fide dispute” over whether or not the wages are owed, the worker might be able to accumulate as much as 3 times the quantity of wages owed in damages.[9] Legal professional’s charge awards can be found beneath the statute as effectively.[10]


After which there’s Virginia… the state ostensibly for “lovers” that, maybe appropriately, breaks our little employment regulation hearts each time with its frequent departure from a few of the stronger worker protections accessible in Maryland and the District (to be mentioned in future posts). Although Virginia has had a wage theft statute for a while—the Virginia Wage Cost Act at VA Code § 1-214 et seq.—up till April of 2020, it didn’t have any significant treatment for particular person victims of wage theft.[11] Nonetheless, (drumroll) in April of 2020, Gov. Northam signed into regulation SB 838/HB123 offering for the primary time, a person reason for motion to get better unpaid wages. VA Code § 40.1-29. So now that this wonderful provision exists, how does it stack as much as the statutes in Maryland and D.C.? Nicely, Virginia’s statutory definition of wages is nowhere close to as explicitly broad and inclusive as that of Maryland or D.C. That stated, unpaid commissions and performance-based bonuses could be recovered beneath the Act. Additional, the Act offers for computerized double damages and treble damages for figuring out violations. Due to the latest passage of the Act, there’s not a lot in the best way of case regulation to discover, however at TSLF, we’ll be looking for and litigating these instances and can replace this submit as soon as these verdicts are in.

So which State (or District) is one of the best for workers? On the wage theft entrance, we have now to say that usually talking, D.C. takes the cake with its obligatory treble damages award if requested and its broadly outlined classes of remuneration lined by the statute. Maryland is an in depth second, and Virginia… effectively… you get the thought.


Creator: Nicole Portnov, Esq.*

*Barred in MD and D.C., working towards beneath the supervision of VA and NY-licensed attorneys.

You probably have questions on a selected challenge associated to wages or employment regulation, the attorneys at TSLF can assist.

[1] Sivaraman v. Guizzetti & Assocs., Ltd., 228 A.3d 1066, 1073 (D.C. 2020); Peck v. SELEX Sys. Integration, Inc., 270 F. Supp. 3d 107, 116 (D.D.C. 2017), aff’d, 895 F.3d 813 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

[2] Molock v. Entire Meals Mkt., Inc., 297 F. Supp. 3d 114, 134 (D.D.C. 2018), aff’d on different grounds sub nom. Molock v. Entire Meals Mkt. Grp., Inc., 952 F.3d 293 (D.C. Cir. 2020).

[3] Strobos v. RxBio, Inc., 251 F. Supp. 3d 221, 239 (D.D.C. 2017).

[4] See e.g., Dorsey v. Jacobson Holman, PLLC, 756 F.Supp.second 30 (D.D.C. 2010); Skripchenko v. VIRxSYS Corp., No. 13-0004, 2014 WL 4826788 (D. Md. Sept. 26, 2014); Rothberg v. Xerox Corp., No. 12-617, 2016 WL 10953882, at *15–19 (D.D.C. Feb. 3, 2016).

[5] Sivaraman v. Guizzetti & Assocs., Ltd., 228 A.3d 1066, 1072 (D.C. 2020) (discovering that treble damages are obligatory, not discretionary, if requested.”)

[6] See e.g., Mazer v. Safeway, Inc., 398 F. Supp. second 412, 424 (D. Md. 2005)

[7] Roley v. Nat’l Professional. Exch., Inc., 474 F. Supp. 3d 708, 720 (D. Md. 2020), aff’d, 860 F. App’x 264 (4th Cir. 2021).

[8] Medex v. McCabe, 372 Md. 28, 36, 811 A.second 297, 302 (2002); however see Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. v. Fitzpatrick, 366 Md. 295, 305, 783 A.second 667, 672 (2001).

[9] Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc., 439 Md. 646, 664, 97 A.3d 621, 631 (2014).

[10] Pinnacle Grp., LLC v. Kelly, 235 Md. App. 436, 178 A.3d 581 (2018)

[11] Previous to the 2020 amendments, particular person litigants would have needed to depend on a typical regulation idea known as quantum meruit to get better unpaid wages from an employer. Mar v. Malveaux, 732 S.E.second 733, 738–39 (2012).

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