NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - City business owners who fail to pay employees the wages they earn will face increased scrutiny and possible suspension of their operating licenses under a revised ordinance slated to be passed next month.

The ordinance is aimed at "wage theft," when employers pay workers less than they are owed. Usually, the workers are day laborers and part-time employees, often at restaurants and landscaping companies. Many times the workers are undocumented.

New Brunswick passed an ordinance four years ago to address the problem - and has recouped thousands of dollars workers were not paid. Under that local law, any company facing a complaint from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development for failure to pay wages can be denied a renewal of a city operating license.

Sign Up for E-News

The company is not permitted to operate until the outstanding payment is resolved.

However, last September, residents from the city's Unity Square Community Center complained to the city council that the ordinance fails to go far enough. If a company is cited by the state for not coughing up when they owe workers, the city ordinance does not take effect until that company must re-apply for its annual operating license.

That would change under the revised ordinance now before city council.

"This would have teeth," said city Attorney T.K. Shamy.

If approved, the ordinance would require a company to resolve any wage theft finding within 90 days, or have its operating license suspended. Employers would also have an opportunity to have a hearing before the city council before the suspension is imposed.

City council members will consider the revised ordinance for a second final vote on Feb. 6.