Nearly $5 Million Recovered By AG’s Office for Labor Violations in 2011
Investigations Result in Restitution for Nearly 4,400 Workers in the Commonwealth
BOSTON – Nearly $5 million in restitution and penalties were recovered for wage and labor violations in the Commonwealth in 2011, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The restitution and penalty payments are the result of cases handled by the Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General’s Office.
“Our office brings enforcement actions not only to protect employees, but to ensure that businesses are operating on a level playing field and to promote strong economic growth throughout the Commonwealth,” AG Coakley said. “Companies must be held accountable to ensure that employees are paid the wages and receive the benefits that they have rightfully earned.”
In 2011, the Fair Labor Division recovered roughly $4.5 million in restitution for nearly 4,400 workers and approximately $500,000 in penalties for the Commonwealth
The AG’s Fair Labor Division enforces various laws that protect workers, including the prevailing wage, minimum wage, payment of wages, overtime, tip pooling, child labor, Sunday and holiday premium pay, and the public construction bid laws. The Division uses its broad powers to investigate and enforce violations of the law through criminal and civil enforcement actions. Through its authority the Division protects employees from exploitation and various labor violations by employers to promote fairness and transparency in the marketplace.
The following are select cases pursued by the Fair Labor Division in 2011:
In September 2011, the AG’s Office reached an agreement with a West Springfield car dealership for violating the Commonwealth's wage and hour laws. After receiving a complaint from a former employee, investigators discovered that the dealership had not calculated the proper overtime rate for employees who worked over 40 hours in a work week and had not paid the minimum wage rate to some of its employees. As a result, Balise Motor Sales, Inc. and its president, James E. Balise, Jr., agreed to pay more than $450,000 in restitution, as well as a $7,500 penalty for violating labor laws.
In October 2011, the AG’s Office cited a Raynham and a Somerset restaurant for intentional violations of the Massachusetts Minimum Wage, Child Labor and Anti-Retaliation Laws. Investigators discovered that many employees worked more than 70 hours a week while making less than minimum wage, if they were paid at all, including a 16-year old who received no compensation for nine months of work. As a result, Grand China and New York Super China Buffet were cited for more than $52,000 in restitution and $129,000 in penalties.
A settlement was reached with two companies in November 2011, to resolve allegations that they failed to pay more than $225,000 in vacation wages to employees who separated or were terminated from employment. The AG’s Office began an investigation after receiving a complaint from a former employee alleging failure to pay vacation wages upon termination. A review of payroll documents and copies of the companies’ various vacation policies revealed that 170 former employees of Ryder Truck Rental, Inc. and Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc. (collectively “Ryder”) were not paid earned vacation wages at separation or termination of employment. Under the terms of the agreement, Ryder agreed to pay 170 former employees a total of $225,083.48, and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $71,300.
In addition to the prosecution of wage and hour violations, the Bid Unit in the AG’s Fair Labor Division also handled nearly 100 bid protests, some of which were brought by whistleblowers, in which citizens or public officials brought cases to the AG’s Bid Unit with the hopes of bringing integrity to the bid procedures used in their community. In two of the whistle-blower cases, Oak Bluffs, and Cohasset, the awarding authorities were ordered to take steps to ensure that contracts for public construction are being awarded consistent with public construction bidding laws. Both of these entities are currently undergoing a year of compliance monitoring by the Bid Unit.
Workers who believe they may not have been paid the appropriate wages are encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465. More information about the wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights website: www.massworkrights.com.