Last minute legislation would close stolen wages loophole (NY)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ALBANY – A wage theft law is on the books in New York State, but there is an effort to close a loophole that allows guilty businesses to hide assets and avoid paying what is owed.

Susan Zimet of Greene County, executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, is lobbying to have to close that loophole in the next several days.

“We are trying to do what is called the ‘SWEAT’ legislation, which is ‘Securing Wages Earned Against Theft’ to basically put a lien on the business at the very beginning of the lawsuit so the assets can’t be moved around and if somebody wins, they can end up actually getting the back wages,” she said.

The measure passed in the Assembly last year and Zimet expects it to be approved again this year.

She is pushing to have the bill, which is curently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by John Bonacic (R, Mt. Hope), approved before lawmakers adjourn in about one week.

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Columnist Dennis Bidwell: Addressing downtown Northampton’s challenges (MA)

By DENNIS BIDWELL

Monday, June 05, 2017
The Northampton City Council Committee on Community Resources, through public forums and a variety of presentations and submitted reports, has learned a great deal about both the strengths of the local economy, particularly as it affects downtown Northampton and the center of Florence, and about a variety of local challenges.
The efforts of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and several labor unions produced considerable testimony, particularly from restaurant and construction workers, about their experiences with some local employers failing to comply with wage and labor laws. We also heard from restaurant owners describing their compliance with these laws, as well as their concern that the media’s attention on just one perspective about the issue left many restaurant owners feeling they were maligned as a group.

This attention to wage-theft issues yielded three actions taken by the city. First, issuance by the mayor of an executive order requiring that all contractors seeking procurement contracts with the city, or seeking tax increment financing agreements, certify their compliance with wage and hour laws. Second, passage by the City Council of a resolution declaring Northampton a fair employment city, and calling on the city’s License Commission and Community Preservation Committee to adopt similar requirements regarding contractor certifications. And third, urging additional wage-theft enforcement powers and resources for the state attorney general’s office, and approval of a council order requiring all applicants coming before the council for licenses to affirm their compliance with wage and labor laws.

Construction workers, union seek more protection from wage theft, abuses in Charlotte

JUNE 26, 2017 7:45 PM
BY ELY PORTILLO

A group of construction workers and labor organizers told Charlotte City Council on Monday that the city needs to take more steps to ensure the people fueling the building boom aren’t taken advantage of and subjected to unsafe conditions.

At a press conference organized by the AFL-CIO union in front of the Government Center uptown, they asked City Council to establish a task force to study construction workers’ conditions and pass a policy to rate contractors and make them disclose more about their employment practices.

The call for more rules to protect construction workers is tied to a report called “Build a Better South” that highlights wage theft, workers misclassified as independent contractors, lack of benefits and other hardships facing workers in the South’s booming construction industry. The report is a partnership of the Workers Defense Project, Partnership for Working Families, and the University of Illinois.

The report’s authors surveyed almost 1,500 workers in six fast-growing cities – Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Nashville. In Charlotte, they found:

▪ Nearly half – 44 percent – received no benefits at all from their employers, such as sick leave or health insurance.

▪ The industry is largely made up of Latino workers, who comprised 68 percent of those construction workers surveyed in Charlotte.

▪ Only 11 percent had formal training in construction at a vocational school or community college.

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Illinois legislature passes groundbreaking anti-wage theft bill, measure will help economy, taxpayers, workers and businesses

NEWS PROVIDED BY HourVoice
07 Jun, 2017, 14:36 ET

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., June 7, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Illinois legislature has passed groundbreaking legislation (SB1720) to address wage theft in Illinois. Wage theft is estimated to cost American workers over $50 billion per year and news reports have shown Illinois is a very difficult and complex state for workers seeking to recoup stolen wages. The legislation prohibits businesses who violate state law on the payment of wages from receiving taxpayer-funded state contracts for at least five years. SB1720 also increases the penalty for disobeying a court order to pay back wages the court finds to have been stolen from an employee.

“In this time of fiscal crisis, we need to make sure that taxpayer-funded state contracts are only going to companies which treat their employees fairly. The vast majority of Illinois businesses, which play by the rules and do right by their employees, deserve a level playing field. Taxpayers deserve more confidence on how their money is spent. I was proud to support this common-sense measure,” said State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) who voted for SB1720.

According to HourVoice, wage theft takes many forms, including: shorting workers on their hours, not paying the minimum wage, and not properly paying overtime. It impacts employees in every region of Illinois – at all wage levels and in a wide array of industries.

“Wage theft is estimated to drain $800 million – $3 billion a year from the Illinois economy,” said State Representative Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) who sponsored the measure. “It can also push people below the poverty line and make it harder for working parents to support their children. But when low-income workers get the full pay they have earned, they improve the local and state economy with the dollars they spend.”

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Carpenters Union takes on wage theft at downtown development

By Bill Shaner
July 13, 2017

The Carpenters Local 107 was out in force earlier this week in front of the 145 Front Street development, rallying around accusations that a subcontractor from New Jersey has systematically stiffed local carpenters on overtime hours and pay.

Dozens of union members and advocates marched in a circle across the street, banging on buckets, blowing whistles and chanting slogans like “no justice, no peace.”

At the heart of the matter are five formal U.S. Department of Labor complaints filed by local contractors against the New Jersey-based P and B Partitions.

One such complainant, Edward Vazquez, said time-and-a-half overtime pay and some overtime hours were withheld from his paychecks for about eight months. When he spoke up and attempted to organize other laborers, he was let go, he said.

“Basically, I was getting paid a check, and the rest was in cash, but I wasn’t getting that cash,” he said. “Someone was pocketing that money.”

The five workers who filed the complaint were paid for 40 hours on the books, then overtime in cash, but two hours of overtime were left out and they were straight paid, instead of the legally required time and a half, according to the union.

Vazquez, a Marlborough resident and Worcester native, said unfair treatment was extended to local carpenters and workers formally employed by the company.

“I was let go when I was talking to workers about standing up for their pay.”

He said the case against the company is a home run, and consequently got him into unionizing. After filing the complaint, he joined the Carpenters Local 107.

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Wage Theft Is Costing Workers $50 Billion a Year in Stolen Pay

THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017, 3:33 PM
BY ELI HOROWITZ

 

Five local carpenters who were working on a mixed-use building that includes high-end apartments in downtown Worcester are claiming that they were victims of wage theft and payroll fraud.

The carpenters, who were employed by P&B Partitions, a contractor based in West Berlin, New Jersey, say they were victims of wage and hour violations. Three of the carpenters have filed wage complaints with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, according to a statement from the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

According to the wage complaints, P&B did not pay the carpenters for all hours worked and frequently paid the workers for overtime hours in cash and at less than the rate required by state law.

Dave Minasian, a spokesman for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said the amount of money the workers claim they were bilked of is not being released at this time.

P&B said they did not have anyone immediately available to comment on the complaint. Minasian said P&B has not responded to his organization.

The Worcester Carpenters Union is assisting the workers in recovering the allegedly lost wages.

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Santa Fe judge allows wage-theft enforcement suit to continue

By T.S. Last/Journal NorthFriday, April 28th, 2017 at 4:56pm

SANTA FE – District Court Judge David K. Thomson on Friday rejected a motion by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions to dismiss a lawsuit filed claiming the department was not enforcing state wage theft laws.

The lawsuit was filed in January by four people who say they were victims of wage theft and a coalition of workers’ rights groups. They allege that the department doesn’t hold guilty employers liable for statutory damages during the administrative enforcement phase of a case; improperly imposes a $10,000 cap on investigating wage theft claims; doesn’t investigate or take action against a business when a claim is more than a year old; and refuses claims when workers get snagged by administrative red tape.

“This ruling reaffirms that every hard working New Mexican – not just those with the money to hire lawyers – deserves to be paid for their work,” Elizabeth Wagoner of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a news release. “Our state government cannot turn a blind eye when employers break laws protecting working people.”

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Pols working on wage-theft bill (MA)

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.

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Wage theft is stealing, hurting vulnerable workers (MN)

EDITORIALS
APR 27, 2017

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has been shedding some light recently on wage theft in Minnesota. She has been urging the Legislature to pass legislation cracking down on wage theft this session. She took part in a Capitol rally in February and on Wednesday she joined legislators and Minnesota workers in a roundtable discussion.

According to Smith, wage theft occurs when employers do not pay workers what is owed to them for work performed. According to Smith, more than 39,000 Minnesota workers lose out on nearly $12 million in unpaid wages each year.

“Wage theft is stealing. It’s not how we do business in Minnesota,” Smith said Tuesday.

She says Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal would strengthen workers’ rights and crack down on non-abiding employers.

It proposes the following:

* Providing funding to enforce wage theft protections
* Defining the law by making it clear wage theft is wrong and illegal
* Give investigators the power to subpoena documents
* Require notice of information to be provided to employees at the start of employment, including rate of pay, the legal name of the employer and the employer’s address and phone number
* Creating stiffer penalties to prevent and crack down on wage theft
* Increasing the fines for willful and repeated violations of wage theft laws from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation
* Requiring employers pay employees every 16 days rather than every 31. Under current law, an employee could work 41 days without knowing whether they are going to be paid or not.

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Wage Violations Are Now “Public Record” Under Colorado’s New Wage Theft Transparency Act

The National Law Review
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On April 13, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper signed the Wage Theft Transparency Act into law, which is effective immediately. The Act makes “wage theft” violations in Colorado, including nonpayment of wages or overtime compensation, public record and subject to records requests under the Colorado Open Records Act.

The Act clarifies that information obtained by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), relating to a finding by the CDLE that an employer violated Colorado’s wage laws, is not confidential and shall be released to the public or made available for use in a court proceeding, unless the director of the division makes a determination that the information includes specific information that is a trade secret.

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