Employers Misclassifying Workers Face Joint Federal/State Investigations

Brian J. Hoffman, The Legal Intelligencer
November 22, 2016

Employers have often played “fast and loose” with regulations governing workforce classification, tempted by the significant savings associated with independent contractor treatment. As such, in August 2016, Pennsylvania became the 35th state to reach an agreement with federal authorities to coordinate inquiries and share enforcement data in wage and hour investigations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (PA DOL) and the United States Department of Labor (“US DOL”) inked a Memorandum of Understanding which serves to facilitate the exchange of information during enforcement actions. Historically, a particular focus of both the US DOL and PA DOL has been the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. Previously, an investigation by the PA DOL or US DOL of an employer would NOT necessarily lead to a reciprocal investigation by the other party. Now, given the execution of the Memorandum of Understanding, employers should expect that a wage and hour investigation by one department will likely lead to an investigation by the other. As such, employers challenged on employment classification practices while under audit will likely see overall liabilities increase during any given inquiry, as both federal and state taxes and penalties will be imposed.

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US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR & INDUSTRY SIGN AGREEMENT TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM MISCLASSIFICATION

WHD News Brief: 08/04/2016
Release Number: 16-1603-NAT

Participants: U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division
Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry

Partnership description: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry 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 coordinated investigations and sharing information consistent with applicable law.

Background: The division is working with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and 31 other U.S. states to combat employee misclassification and to ensure that workers get the wages, benefits and protections to which they are entitled. Labeling employees as something they are not – such as independent contractors – can deny them basic rights such as minimum wage, overtime and other benefits. Misclassification also improperly lowers tax revenues to federal and state governments, as create losses for state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.

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US DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SIGN PARTNERSHIP TO REDUCE EMPLOYEE MISCLASSIFICATION IN SIX WESTERN STATES

MOU aligns federal departments in effort to ensure full pay, benefits for workers

 

WHD News Release: 08/22/2016
Release Number: 16-1726-DAL

DENVER – Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help stop the misclassification of workers in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

The first MOU of its kind represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect employee rights and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the department’s Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $74 million in back wages for more than 102,000 workers in industries, such as janitorial, food, construction, daycare, hospitality and garment. The division regularly finds low-wage workers are victims of misclassification.

The agreement will help both agencies communicate and cooperate more effectively and efficiently in areas of common interest, including cross training staff and providing employers and employees with information about the law. By doing so, the two agencies seek to protect the wages, safety, and health of America’s workforce by sharing information.

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AGREEMENT BETWEEN US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, OREGON BUREAU OF LABOR PROVIDES EDUCATION, ENFORCEMENT TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM MISCLASSIFICATION

WHD News Brief:
04/04/2016

Release Number:
16-0414-NAT

Participants:
U.S. Department of Labor’s
Wage and Hour Division
Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries

Partnership description:
The division and bureau 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 coordinated investigations and sharing information consistent with applicable law.

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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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WAGE STEALERS WATCH OUT: Seattle Police join forces with Labor Dept. to catch wage thiefs

April 04, 2015

 

(SEATTLE, WA.) — The City of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division have agreed formally to share information and coordinate enforcement efforts to combat wage theft, a major problem across the U.S. and an even bigger problem in low-wage industries.

“A Memorandum of Understanding – the first signed by the Wage and Hour Division with a city in its western region – aims to boost the Seattle Police Department’s ability to investigate alleged wage theft cases and, when warranted, forward them for review by the City Attorney’s Office,” according to a Seattle Police statement.

In 2011 the City Council made wage theft – the intentional failure to pay or underpay an employee for work – a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Wage theft is the illegal withholding of wages or the denial of benefits that are rightfully owed to an employee. Wage theft, particularly from low wage legal or illegal immigrant workers, is common in the United States, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

DOL Signs Agreement with RI Department of Labor and Training

The agreement is a new effort by the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. 

May 08, 2015

 

The U.S. Department of Labor and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training signed a three-year memorandum of understanding intended to protect the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other non-employee status. Under the agreement, both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement, according to DOL’s release.

The agreement is a new effort by the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. Before the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training agreed to partner with DOL, Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming agencies also signed similar agreements.

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For more information on misclassification, visit (DOL/Misclassification)

 

US Labor Department and Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development sign agreement to reduce misclassification of employees

WHD NEWS Brief: 1/20/2015 
Release Number: 15-0062-NAT

Description: Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development signed a memorandum of understanding with the goal of protecting the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other nonemployee statuses. Under the agreement both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement.

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(Copy of MOU)

US Labor Department signs agreement with Florida Department of Revenue to reduce misclassification of employees

U.S. Dept. of Labor
Wage and Hour Division 
Release Number: 15-34-NAT
Date: January 13, 2015 

WASHINGTON — Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Florida Department of Revenue today signed a memorandum of understanding with the goal of protecting the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other nonemployee statuses. Under the agreement, both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement. The MOU represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. The Florida Department of Revenue is the latest state agency to partner with the Labor Department.

In Fiscal Year 2013, WHD investigations resulted in more than $83,051,159 in back wages for more than 108,050 workers in industries, such as janitorial, food, construction, day care, hospitality and garment. WHD regularly finds large concentrations of misclassified workers in low-wage industries.

“Misclassification deprives workers of rightfully-earned wages and undercuts law-abiding businesses,” said Dr. David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “This memorandum of understanding sends a clear message that we are standing together with the state of Florida to protect workers and responsible employers and ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

“Working with the states is an important tool in ending misclassification,” said Wayne Kotowski, the Wage and Hour Division’s regional administrator for the southeast. “These collaborations allow us to better coordinate compliance with both federal and state laws alike.”

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