More than $39 million in grants awarded to improve performance, integrity of state unemployment insurance programs and reduce worker misclassification

43 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico receive funding

 

ETA News Release 9/22/2015
Release Number: 15-1888-NAT

WASHINGTON – More than $39.3 million in federal grants awarded today will enhance unemployment insurance programs in 45 states and territories, and reduce the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, the U.S. Department of Labor announced.

The funding will help prevent and detect improper benefit payments, improve program performance, address outdated information technology systems, and combat employee misclassification that underpays and denies benefits to workers and hurts local economies.

“For more than 80 years, the unemployment insurance system has been a crucial lifeline for millions of working people who lost their job through no fault of their own,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “These grants will help states use every tool at its disposal to ensure payments are available to those who are eligible, and take important steps to reduce and recover improper payments. The funds will also identify new ways to level the playing field for responsible employers.”

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Project labor agreements make sense for everyone: David Wondolowski and Matthew A. Szollosi (Opinion)

By Guest Columnist
on September 09, 2015 at 3:29 PM

 

Recently, Baylor Myers, director of the ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity group, in an op-ed for the Cleveland-area Sun newspapers, called for passage in Ohio of legislation that would effectively prohibit public-sector project labor agreements. His proposal, and the reasoning for it, demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the construction industry.

In the course of governmental efficiency arguments at all levels, we often hear “government needs to operate more like a business!” Project labor agreements have been commonly used in the private sector as a means of project delivery for decades.

Yet, in this instance, proponents in Ohio — who earlier this year were unsuccessful in prohibiting PLAs but added a provision to the state budget, House Bill 64, that requires a public hearing by state agencies whenever PLAs are contemplated — seek to take a proven, successful tool off the table for all public authorities and all state agencies.

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US Department of Labor signs agreement with Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to protect workers from misclassification

WHD News Brief: 9/04/2015
Release Number: 15-1761-SAN

 

Participants: U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the State of Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

Partnership description: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations have signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding intended to protect employees’ rights by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other non-employee statuses. The two agencies will provide clear, accurate, and easy-to-access outreach to employers, employees, and other stakeholders, share resources, and enhance enforcement by conducting joint investigations and sharing information consistent with applicable law.

Quotes: “The Wage and Hour Division continues to attack this problem head on through a combination of a robust education and outreach campaign, and nationwide, data-driven strategic enforcement across industries,” said David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “Our goal is always to strive toward workplaces with decreased misclassification, increased compliance, and more workers receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” – David Weil, U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Administrator

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More than half of states now onboard with feds’ IC misclassification fight

September 08 2015

 

Vermont signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Labor to fight misclassification of employees as independent contractors – it’s the 26th state to do so, following Alaska in August and Kentucky in July.

“Misclassification deprives workers of their hard earned wages and undercuts businesses that follow the law,” said David Weil, US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division administrator. “This agreement sends a clear message that we are standing together with the state of Vermont to protect workers and responsible employers.”

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Understanding the economic impact of prevailing wage

By Kevin Duncan

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

 

As a practicing economist for the last 30 years, I have spent much of that time studying the impact of prevailing-wage policies. And I was heartened to see that George Hawkins had looked at some of my recent work.

Mr. Hawkins rightly notes that too often, the debate over the merits of prevailing-wage policies has devolved into ideologically based arguments and conspiracy theories – neither of which is rooted in fact or data-driven analysis.

Peer-reviewed economists enjoy no such luxury, and that’s what has made a series of new impact analyses about prevailing wage – analyses that for the first time model the impact of these policies on broader economic factors such as job creation – so important, and so discomforting for those who oppose these standards.

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U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule Implementing Pay Transparency Executive Order

posted on: Friday, September 11, 2015

 

Today (September 10, 2015), the Department of Labor issued its final rule, implementing Executive Order 13665  (the “Order”), which prohibits federal contractors from firing or otherwise disciplining employees or job applicants for discussing their pay or the pay of their co-workers.  The final rule goes into effect on January 11, 2016.

The final rule comes after the Department of Labor received 6,524 comments from stakeholders.  Among other things, the final rule amends the equal opportunity clauses in Executive Order (“EO”) 11246 to afford protections to workers who discuss pay; codifies certain defenses for contractors; and adds employee notice provisions.  The new regulation’s key points are discussed below.

Applicability

The final rule applies to both federal contracts and subcontracts “entered into or modified on or after [January 11, 2016] that exceed $10,000 in value.”  Modification of a contract includes changes to any term or condition of the contract, as well as extensions and renewals of existing contracts.

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First Reported Conviction Under Texas’ New Wage Theft Law

by Scott Braddock on Wed, 09/16/2015 – 8:30am

 

The first reported conviction of a contractor guilty of wage theft was handed down by a jury in El Paso this past week. The case against the employer was pursued under a law passed in 2011 by a local lawmaker who has made stamping out wage theft one of his personal causes.

The victim, Esteban Rangel, said he was owed $2,295 by the owner of Sun City Roofing, John Najera. Najera did not have any prior convictions, which is why the 180 day jail sentence announced in court was reduced to three months of probation. In addition, Najera must pay a fine of $5,000 and Rangel will receive $2,295 in restitution.

The lawmaker who pushed for passage of the state’s new wage theft law, Sen. Jose Rodríguez, said the conviction is an important step forward and will hopefully send a message to other unethical business owners. The bill he successfully championed in 2011 allows for criminal prosecution for wage theft if – with the intent to avoid payment – an employer fails to make full payment after receiving notice.

“This conviction is a landmark in the fight against wage theft,” Rodríguez said. “Unscrupulous employers who intentionally steal from employees now know there are real consequences for robbing workers of the pay that they’re owed,” said the El Paso Democrat.

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DOL is Watching: Are You properly Classifying Employees?

posted on: Wednesday, September 16, 2015

 

Recently, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Administrator’s Interpretation regarding the classification of independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or Act). Much has been written about this “interpretation.” In review, the interpretation is best understood as an aspirational view based on an administrative belief that all workers should be employees. While DOL’s interpretation is supported by case law, in many cases, the supporting law constitutes minority or aberrational positions. Whether DOL’s position is ultimately sustained by the courts or not, it is important to understand DOL’s enforcement position.

The DOL takes the position that “most workers are employees under the FLSA’s broad definitions.” This pronouncement strongly signals that the DOL will continue to aggressively pursue misclassification claims. The DOL has entered into memoranda of understanding with at least 25 state enforcement agencies, as well as the IRS, in order to bring enforcement actions regarding alleged misclassifications.

Ninth Circuit Upends Idaho’s Anti-Union Law

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

By MIKE HEUER
(CN) – Since federal labor law controls what workers do with their pay, Idaho cannot block union contractors from using portions of wages as a subsidy to better compete for work, the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday.

Construction unions developed the strategy, known as “job-targeting” or “market-recovery” programs, as the percentage of workers they represent continued to decline.

The program involve unions collects funds from workers it represents and using those funds to subsidize bids by union contractors, “allowing the contractors to lower their labor costs and so more effectively compete with non-union contractors,” a ruling from the Ninth Circuit says today.

When Idaho banned the practice with a law called the Fairness in Contracting Act, unions filed suit for an injunction.

Before the law could take effect in 2011, Chief U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill ruled that the law conflicts with Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

An appellate panel with the Ninth Circuit in Portland, Ore., affirmed today.

In addition to private jobs, Idaho’s law would apply to federal contractor jobs that are governed by the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal statute that determines labor and pay standards on federal projects.

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Michael F. Sabitoni: I’m thrilled to see crackdown on bad R.I. businesses

By Michael F. Sabitoni

Posted Sep. 18, 2015 at 2:01 AM

A $730,000 fine! That is what a construction subcontractor hanging drywall recently voluntarily agreed to pay to Rhode Island for misclassification and wage and hour violations on just one public works project.
According to the Sept. 1 news story “R.I. construction firm settles with DLT to pay more than $730,000 in back wages, penalties,” the subcontractor’s lawyer actually commended the owner of the company for coming “to the plate” and working “to make things right” rather than fleeing the country and/or filing bankruptcy. Wow, what an upstanding citizen!

When someone blatantly exploits workers in such an egregious way, we in the trades do not know how anyone could commend the perpetrator in any respect. The fact of the matter is the only reason this contractor is coming “to the plate” is not because of character, it is because of money and/or profits. It goes to show you how lucrative cheating is in the construction industry.

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