Northampton adopts ‘Fair Employment City’ status with unanimous council vote (MA)

By Mary Serreze
on February 03, 2017 at 1:30 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The nine-member City Council took a public stand against wage theft, worker misclassification, and poor working conditions as it unanimously approved a resolution declaring Northampton a “fair employment city.”

It was one of several labor-related actions taken before a roomful of advocates packed into Council Chambers at 212 Main Street on Thursday night. The crowd broke into applause at the conclusion of the roll-call vote.

“This has been a long, complicated, and nuanced process, unifying lots of varying agendas and priorities,” said City Council president Bill Dwight.

The resolution declares in part that “decent working conditions and fair wages for workers is an essential part of investment in local economies and sustainable employment practices.”

It takes aim at the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, saying the practice denies workers critical benefits and protections to which they are entitled.

(Read More)

Coalition lays out agenda to boost Massachusetts workers (MA)

Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017 4:36 pm
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

BOSTON – Labor unions, community groups and workers rights organizations set up shop in the Great Hall on Tuesday morning to draw attention to a raft of bills that constitute a “healthy workplace legislative agenda” that they said will make workplaces safer for all employees.

Among the issues advocates hoped to bend policymakers’ ears on were public employee safety, workplace bullying, protections for pregnant workers, wage theft, paid family and medical leave, using carbon dioxide detectors in public buildings, and a raise in the state’s minimum wage.

Led by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and the AFL-CIO, the lobby day featured briefings on bills, speeches from workers and union leaders, and visits to wrangle support among lawmakers.

“We ask you to be here today in fairness, to join us in fairness, to help us move the agenda for working people who are under attack and public employees who give their hearts and souls and then are made to be the goat,” Massachusetts ALF-CIO President Steven Tolman said during a speech to the organizers who would be visiting legislative offices. “That’s what this is about, about working together to find an agenda to make working people continue to have the strength and the benefits that they should have. That’s all we ask.”

(Read More)

Allegations Of Unpaid Wages And Benefits Hit Asbestos Cleanup Firms (MA)

January 18, 2017
By Beth Daley, The Eye

Federal prosecutors are investigating an asbestos-removal company active in the Boston area to see whether the firm withheld wages and benefits from workers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The case is part of widening U.S. Justice Department activity and private civil action targeting asbestos-removal and demolition contractors for alleged worker mistreatment amid a construction and renovation boom in Massachusetts.

Registered asbestos-abatement jobs in the state totaled 25,660 in 2016, up 64 percent in five years, as construction materials in many older buildings being torn apart for renovation often contain the carcinogenic mineral.

Within the last two years, two criminal cases and three civil lawsuits have been brought in U.S. District Court in Boston alleging companies are cheating asbestos-removal or demolition workers on wage and benefits payments. In one of the cases, the owner of an asbestos-abatement firm pleaded guilty to federal charges after prosecutors alleged he paid workers in cash to avoid employment taxes and payments he owed to union benefit funds

(Read More)

Haverhill contractor settles allegations of overbilling MBTA, prevailing wage violations (MA)

Staff Reports
Feb 25, 2017

BOSTON – A New Hampshire-based general contractor with ties to Haverhill and one of its subcontractors have agreed to pay more than $420,000 for submitting false and inflated payment requests in connection with their construction of the Assembly Square Station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Orange Line in Somerville, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Friday.

S&R Construction Enterprises, its president Stephen Early of Haverhill, subcontractor A&S Electrical and its manager Gregory Lane agreed to resolve allegations they violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false and inflated pay estimates to improperly front load payments under their contracts. In addition, S&R Construction, based in Newton, New Hampshire, and A&S Electrical are barred from bidding on and accepting new public contracts in Massachusetts for five years and one year, respectively.

“Building new public transportation infrastructure is how we will move Massachusetts forward, and taxpayers deserve confidence in how we spend every dollar,” Healey said. “Overbilling and front-loading creates unacceptable risks of delays and degrades the integrity of our public contracting. Taking on this fraud is a top priority.”

“We are very pleased with this result, and thank the AG’s office for its excellent work in pursuing these claims,” said MassDOT/MBTA General Counsel John Englander.

(Read More)

City will soon be able to revoke permits at unsafe work sites

By Meghan E. Irons GLOBE STAFF
DECEMBER 16, 2016

City officials will soon have the authority to deny, revoke, or suspend a permit for any contractor with a poor record of ensuring their workers’ safety.

The City Council approved the safety measure this week, sending a strong message to anyone pulling permits after two construction workers died in October when a water line burst under a South End street, flooding the trench and thwarting attempts to save the men.

The employees – Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks – worked for Atlantic Drain Services, a Roslindale company that was found to have a long and troubling history of violations, including citations for workers lacking oxygen underground and for conditions that could lead to cave-ins, federal records show.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who filed the ordinance proposal in November, aimed to hold individuals and companies accountable and sought better protection for workers by giving the city the power to intervene on their behalf.

(Read More)

CONSTRUCTION FIRMS ORDERED TO PAY $2.4 MILLION IN BACK WAGES

Two entwined Massachusetts companies deliberately misclassified hourly workers as independent contractors

December 06, 2016

The Labor Department said today that Anderson Dos Santos, owner and president of AB Construction Group and Juliano Fernandes, general manager at Force Corporation cheated 478 construction workers out of overtime wages and employment benefits.

The Labor Department said Force prepared and controlled the payroll and payment procedures for both companies. AB Construction was formed to supply Force with labor. The pair used a combination of payroll checks and cash and check payments to pay their employees straight time when overtime pay was required and kept inadequate and inaccurate time and payroll records, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“To be cheated out of wages and denied other workplace protections by an employer who deliberately flouts the rules compounds the struggles too many middle-class Americans already face,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. “Workers who play by the rules deserve nothing less than to be paid what they are owed.”

(Read More)

Column: Senate legislation to end wage theft epidemic

By STAN ROSENBERG and SAL DIDOMENICO
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Massachusetts economy is working very, very well for some people, but not nearly well enough for others. That’s why we have one of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.

Building an economy that works for everyone is one of the top priorities of the Massachusetts Senate. We are fortunate to have thriving industries in Massachusetts, like solar energy, cyber security and pharmaceuticals. We have companies that make headlines around the world for the pioneering work they do. They pay their workers well, and they make a substantial contribution to our economy.

Less well known is a persistent underground economy, with companies that never make headlines and use that to their advantage to exploit some of our most vulnerable workers. Those companies don’t pay their workers good wages, and sometimes they even refuse to pay them for the work they do. That’s wage theft, and it’s against the law.

(Read More)

Plymouth man charged with wage theft from employees

Joseph B. Kerrissey III and two companies indicted, says AG Healey

BY CAPECODTODAY STAFF
OCTOBER 11, 2016 02:12 PM |

A Plymouth man has been charged in connection with an alleged wage theft scheme that spans back to 2011 in which he owes $100,000 to workers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. He also faces larceny and unemployment fraud charges for failing to contribute to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

Joseph B. Kerrissey , III, age 39, and his companies J. Kerrissey, LLC and Sunrise Equipment & Excavation, Inc. were indicted by a Statewide Grand Jury. The defendants will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on Oct. 26 and in Plymouth Superior Court at a later date.

“This defendant allegedly engaged in a pattern of refusing to pay his workers the wages they were rightfully owed and used a variety of methods to dissuade them from seeking to obtain those wages,” said AG Healey. “We know that workers in the construction industry are particularly susceptible to abuse. People who work hard should be able to provide for themselves and their families and we will continue to hold accountable employers who exploit their workers.”

(Read More)

AG Healey Issues First-Ever Labor Day Report on Efforts to Combat Wage Theft, Revamps Workplace Rights Website with Innovative Features

Report Shows $3.8 Million in Restitution and Penalties Recovered on Behalf of Workers in FY 16; New Easy-to-Navigate Website includes Searchable Public Data, Content in Various Languages

For Immediate Release – September 06, 2016
Media Contact – Emalie Gainey

BOSTON – To commemorate Labor Day and as a part of her continued efforts to protect workers and their families in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued the first-ever Labor Day Report on her office’s efforts to combat and prevent wage theft. The report shows that in fiscal year 2016 alone, the office recovered $3.8 million in restitution and penalties on behalf of working people in Massachusetts.

AG Healey also announced her revamped workplace rights website with a new design and innovative features, including searchable public data and content in various languages. The new easy-to-navigate website will allow workers to better understand their rights and for employers, their obligations under state law.

“Wage theft is far too common, especially among vulnerable workers,” AG Healey said. “Our office will continue our efforts to aggressively use enforcement actions and educational outreach to help combat and prevent such theft. In Massachusetts, getting paid what you are owed is not a privilege, it is a right under the law. Everyone deserves an opportunity to participate fairly in our economy.”

(Read More)

(See Full PDF Report Here)

MASSACHUSETTS COMPANIES TO PAY $2.4M IN OVERTIME, DAMAGES TO 478 WORKERS, MOST INTENTIONALLY MISCLASSIFIED AS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS

BOSTON – A Lunenburg construction company and a Framingham company it used to avoid its legal responsibilities as an employer have been ordered to pay a total of $2,359,685 in back wages and liquidated damages to 478 employees and take other corrective actions to prevent future violations of federal labor law. Under a consent judgment they will also pay $262,900 in civil money penalties due to the willful nature of their violations.

An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Force Corp., AB Construction Group Inc. and employers Juliano Fernandes and Anderson Dos Santos misclassified the bulk of their employees as independent contractors to avoid paying them overtime wages and other benefits to which they were entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition, the defendants used a combination of payroll checks and cash/check payments to pay their employees straight time when overtime pay was required, and kept inadequate and inaccurate time and payroll records.

“American workers go to their jobs each and every day and work hard to help their employers turn a profit,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “To be cheated out of wages and denied other workplace protections by an employer who deliberately flouts the rules compounds the struggles too many middle class Americans already face. Workers who play by the rules deserve nothing less than to be paid what they are owed.”

(Read More)