The Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Bill passed the Senate Labor Committee today, 10-5, but it was pretty wild ride for us. We testified in support of the bill, along with Clint Brown of UFCW 881, the questioning from Republicans – they sounded like Republicans – got intense.

It started with Senator Jim Oberweis asking me “Have you ever beaten your wife?” (I’m not married). “OK, have you ever hit a woman?” (No). “Have you ever had an argument with a woman? (Yes, you got me. What the hell are you getting at?).

Obviously I didn’t ask that out loud, and Senator Linda Holmes rose to my defense – thank you! – then tempers started to flair a bit. Senator Oberweis apparently was trying to say that determining whether wage theft had occurred was a highly subjective matter of opinion.

This is absurd. In virtually every case, wage theft comes down to shorting hours, illegal pay deductions, not allowing required breaks, and other bright line calls. One of the few gray areas is misclassification – where employees are misclassified as independent contractors or non-exempt employees are misclassified as exempt from overtime. But even in those situations, there are guidelines and labor attorneys to inform management decision-making.

So, spousal abuse is pretty clear-cut, and so is wage theft. Try again.