HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A 62-year-old man was charged with wage theft after authorities said he refused to pay an independent laborer for work done after Hurricane Harvey.
Authorities said Sonny D. Nicholas ripped off a house painter for $2,300. Nichols became the first person in Harris County to face the charge.
“This is about treating people decently and obeying the law,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “We follow the evidence, and we are not going to let employers rip off contractors, just as we won’t let contractors steal from the public.”
Nicholas is accused of agreeing to pay the painter, a self-employed independent contractor, $3,000 for the job at his home in Southside Place, near West University in April 2018.
Nicholas gave the man a $500 check to cover supplies, authorities said, but the check bounced.
After a few days of painting, authorities said Nichols began demanding more work to be done at the original price. The painter refused to do the additional work without being compensated, according to authorities.
Nichols then told the painter to leave.
In 2011, Texas passed what is known as the "wage theft law," which says employers "commit a crime when they don’t pay workers for their time and service."
Victims of wage theft can contact organizations such as the AFL-CIO’s Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, the Worker Defense Fund and Fe y Justicia Worker Center. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office encourages wage-theft victims to report them to such groups, as well as police, so that offenders can be prosecuted.
Nichols faces up to a year in jail a $4,000 fine, if he's convicted.