By Katie Lannan, State House News Service
UPDATED: 04/26/2017 09:25:02 AM EDT
BOSTON — Workers’ rights advocates and labor leaders pledged Monday to pass into law this session a bill aimed at preventing wage theft by employers.
During a press conference in support of the bill, its backers said wage theft — a business’s underpayment, non-payment or denial of benefits to a worker — particularly hurts immigrants and can pose a barrier to families trying to move up into the middle class.
“I’m not labeling the entire employer community criminals, because the large majority of them are law-abiding and play by the rules and they deserve protection, but those employers that steal the wages from their workers are criminals,” Massachusetts Building Trades Council President Frank Callahan said. “It’s theft and stealing. They don’t carry guns, they don’t wear masks. They wear suits like this and they steal money from people who wear workboots and go to work every single day.”
The bill (S 999/H 1033) seeks to prevent wage law violations by allowing the issuance of stop-work orders until wage violations are corrected and giving the attorney general’s office the power to bring wage theft cases to court for civil damages.
Attorney General Maura Healey described a growing problem in Massachusetts, saying she has hired new investigators and expanded multilingual outreach efforts to combat wage theft. She said her office last year fielded over 20,000 calls from people reporting stolen wages and received 6,000 complaints.