Increasing enforcement at state and local levels in Massachusetts combats wage theft

Monday, February 15, 2016

NORTHAMPTON – Efforts are underway on the state and local levels in communities across Massachusetts to combat wage theft, the practice of employers denying workers the pay to which they are legally entitled.

Labor activists say wage theft is an unfortunate practice in workplaces throughout the country. It’s not uncommon for bosses to deny workers earned overtime, sick time or even the minimum wage, they say. The practice is particularly prevalent in the restaurant industry, which employs about 40 percent of all workers making at or below the minimum wage nationwide. It’s also common in the landscaping and construction industries, studies have found.

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No, raising the local minimum wage doesn’t hurt local businesses

By Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg
February 26

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the nation’s first minimum-wage law. It set the wage at $0.25 an hour and covered only a fifth of the workforce. Speaking to the country the night before he signed the bill, Roosevelt told listeners to “not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day” tell them “that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

Last August, almost 80 years later, the city council of Birmingham, Ala., voted 7 to 0 (with one abstention) to become the first city in the Deep South to enact a minimum wage above today’s federal level of $7.25. The ordinance planned an increase to $8.50 per hour by July 2016, with a second increase to $10.10 set for July 2017.

In response, state lawmakers leapt from “calamity-howling” to obstructionism. The Alabama legislature this past week passed a bill designed to block Birmingham and other cities not just from raising the local wage floor but also from mandating benefits such as paid sick leave. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R) insists that the bill isn’t about the policies themselves but about preventing “all sorts of problems” that arise when cities are allowed to set their own minimum wages, presumably because there’s nothing preventing local businesses from relocating to avoid the higher labor costs engendered by an increase.

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Seattle Minimum Wage and Wage Theft Ordinances Take Effect April 1, 2015

4/1/2015 by Portia Moore, Paula Simon



Two significant wage-related ordinances take effect on April 1, 2015, impacting all employers with employees who work in Seattle, whether regularly or occasionally.

The Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance: Minimum wages rise for all employees who perform at least two hours of work in Seattle in a two-week pay period. The Ordinance sets forth additional record-keeping and notice posting requirements, along with provisions on joint employers and integrated enterprises. The city’s new Office of Labor Standards (OLS), which is part of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), has just released the final administrative rules that guide how the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance is interpreted and enforced, available here, along with an extensive FAQ sheet, available here.

The Seattle Wage Theft Ordinance: Although the City of Seattle originally passed a Wage Theft Ordinance in 2011 (amending SMC 12A.08.060), the sole complaint mechanism provided by the 2011 law involved the filing of a criminal complaint to law enforcement. Starting Wednesday, April 1, 2015, a new administrative process will allow employees to file wage theft charges with the OLS.

Report: Wage theft on the rise in Bay area

Sarah Hagen, WTSP6:43 p.m. EDT

March 20, 2015



St. Petersburg, Florida — Could you be a victim of wage theft? It’s when an employer doesn’t pay in full, fails to pay minimum wage, ignores overtime pay, makes you work through meal breaks or pays late.

“Pushing for a wage theft ordinance in St. Pete will make bad businesses think twice before cheating employees,” said councilwoman Darden Rice. She adds, it’s the many personal stories like Scott Snurpus’ that have motivated her for change

“Once I realized I was being robbed I was mad,” says Snurpus who was working as an electrician. He says his temp agency was wrongly taking money from his paycheck to pay for equipment. Since then the US Labor Board got involved and he’s gotten his money back.

Rice says certain industries are more likely to target victims “Low-wage industries: fast food workers, nursing homes, construction workers,” she says.

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Iowa Senate OKs bills on minimum wage, wage theft

POSTED: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2015 5:13 PM | UPDATED: 5:13 PM, TUE FEB 24, 2015.



DES MOINES (AP) – The Iowa Senate voted Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage and try to curtail cases of wage theft.

By a 27-22 vote, the Senate approved increasing the minimum wage level to $8.75.

Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said a minimum wage increase would help Iowa’s workforce.

“We are trying to build a high wage, high skill economy. We don’t want to become a regional haven for low wage employers,” he said in prepared remarks.

Senators also voted 26-23 to establish more rules to avoid alleged wage theft by employers.

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Governor Cuomo Announces $30 Million in Recovered Wages

Record Amount Disbursed to More Than 27K Workers for 2014

February 4, 2015 | Albany, NY

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new record in 2014 for the amount of money returned to workers who originally were not paid the proper minimum wage, overtime pay or fringe benefits. In 2014, $30.2 million was disbursed to nearly 27,000 workers – more than any previous year and a 35 percent increase in recovered funds over 2013.

“No one should be cheated out of their hard-earned wages, and as these numbers show, our administration is making a difference for workers across the State by actively cracking down on wage theft,” Governor Cuomo said. “I’m proud to say that investigators recovered more stolen wages in 2014 than ever before – which means more money stays with the hard-working men and women who earned it in the first place.”

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Executive Orders Impacting Construction in 2015

12/31/2014 by Daniel Frost 


In 2014 Barack Obama issued over 30 executive orders as promised in his State of the Union Address.  At least three of these orders are notable and will impact federal contractors and workers performing construction and construction management services.

On February 12, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13658, which raises the minimum wage for workers on federal construction and service contracts to $10.10.  This order applies to procurements subsequent to January 1, 2015, and provides that after 2015, increases to the minimum wage will be tied to the Consumer Price Index.  The Department of Labor will be charged with enforcement and rulemaking on implementation and remedies for violations is already underway.

On July 21, 2014 President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, which extends the antidiscrimination protections of two previous executive orders to LGBT federal workers.  This order now prohibits discrimination in the federal civilian workforce on the basis of gender identity or hiring by federal contractors on the basis of sexual identity or gender identity.  Federal contractors will also be required to engage in certain affirmative action to provide equal opportunity to LGBT federal workers.  Final rules have been promulgated and the order looks to become effective early next year.  Enforcement will be through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Also on July 21, 2014 President Obama signed Executive Order 13673 which requires that for all federal contracts over $500,000, prospective contractors must disclose various labor violations as set forth in the text of the order.  Any violations so disclosed will be considered in determining whether the contractor is a responsible source.  Additionally, the information provided on violations must be updated every six months during the performance of the contract.  The order also prohibits contractors from relying on pre-dispute arbitration agreements to resolve various civil rights and tort claims where the amount of the contract is over $1 million.  Contractors with multiple serious violations in the past are now at risk for suspension and debarment.

It is too early to know for certain the precise risks and burdens of these new executive orders, but it is clear that from 2015 forward, the regulatory and oversight environment will be significantly increased for government contractors.

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Enforcement Matters: Wage Violations, Workers and the Economy

by Secretary Tom Perez on December 4, 2014

If you work hard and play by the rules, then you should be able to earn enough to take care of yourself and your family – that’s a core American value. But for too many people, their hard work isn’t reflected in their paychecks. In many cases, workers aren’t being fully and properly paid for all the hours they put in on the job. The Labor Department recently commissioned a research study on minimum wage violations in two states that demonstrates exactly that. But we are committed to using our enforcement tools to ensure workers get the wages that are rightfully theirs.

Using U.S. Census and earnings data from New York and California, this new study shows that many workers are earning a de facto minimum wage below the legal floor. Unscrupulous employers push their workers into poverty when they fail to pay what the law requires.

In those states, roughly 3 to 6 percent of all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act experience minimum wage violations – translating into a total of between $20 and $29 million in lost weekly income. That represents 40 percent or more of their total pay. Imagine if 40 cents out of every dollar you earned didn’t show up in your paycheck but in your employer’s pocket. For every hour of tough, on-your-feet work looking after children, cleaning homes, making hotel beds, preparing food in a restaurant or picking crops in a field, it’s possible you could be working 24 minutes for free. That’s just wrong.

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(USDOL Study)

Report: Seattle Needs Community Groups To Help Enforce New $15 Minimum Wage

For Immediate Release: October 22, 2014

Seattle, WA – Seattle made history by becoming first city in the nation to adopt a $15 minimum wage, but it will need to strengthen its labor standards enforcement to ensure that workers get the raise due to them-and community groups should play a key role in that effort, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.

“We don’t have a $15 minimum wage if we don’t enforce a $15 minimum wage,” said Rebecca Smith, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project and the report’s co-author. “Educating the employer community is one key to compliance, but education isn’t enough. A robust wage enforcement system needs strong partnerships with local community organizations-groups that are trusted by workers who might not be willing to file complaints directly with the city.”

(Read Full Press Release Here)

(PDF of Report)

US Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez announces final rule raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers

Rule raises the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for covered workers

WASHINGTON — Upholding President Obama’s promise to make 2014 a year of action to expand opportunity, reward work and grow the middle class, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today announced a final rule that raises the minimum wage for workers on federal service and construction contracts to $10.10 per hour. The final rule implements Executive Order 13658, which was announced by the president on Feb. 12, and it will benefit nearly 200,000 American workers.

“No one who works full time in America should have to raise their family in poverty, and if you serve meals to our troops for a living, then you shouldn’t have to go on food stamps in order to serve a meal to your family at home,” said Secretary Perez. “By raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts, we’re rewarding a hard day’s work with fair pay. This action will also benefit taxpayers. Boosting wages lowers turnover and increases morale, and will lead to higher productivity.”

The final rule provides guidance and sets standards for employers concerning what contracts are covered and which of their workers are covered. The rule also establishes obligations that contractors must fulfill to comply with the minimum wage provisions of the executive order, including record-keeping requirements. It provides guidance about where to find the required rate of pay for all workers, including tipped employees and workers with disabilities. Additionally, the rule establishes an enforcement process that should be familiar to most government contractors and will protect the right of workers to receive the new $10.10 minimum wage.

(Read More)

(Minimum Wage Executive Order Final Rule)

(PDF of Final Rule)

(PDF of Executive Order 13658)

(Secretary Perez Blog – A Promise Made and a Promise Kept)