AG Healey Issues Labor Day Report on Office’s Efforts to Combat Wage Theft
Report Shows Nearly $8.7 Million in Restitution and Penalties Assessed in FY ‘17
BOSTON – As a part of her continued efforts to protect workers and their families in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued the second annual Labor Day Report on her office’s efforts to address wage theft and enforce fair labor laws. The report shows that in fiscal year 2017 alone, the office assessed nearly $8.7 million in restitution and penalties against employers on behalf of working people in Massachusetts.
“My office is committed to supporting working families in Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “That’s why our Fair Labor Division works every day to ensure that workers get paid the wages they are owed and that employers know the rules.”
AG Healey’s Labor Day Report details the activities of the AG’s Fair Labor Division in fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017). The Division is responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the payment of wages, including prevailing wage, minimum wage, earned sick leave and overtime. It also protects employees from exploitation and wage theft through strong partnerships and community education.
In fiscal year 2017, the Fair Labor Division opened 607 cases and required employers to pay $6.02 million in restitution and $2.67 million in penalties. These figures represent a doubling of assessed restitution and tripling of total penalties from the prior year.
The construction and restaurant industries continue to have the highest percentage of violations cited. In the restaurant industry, the office issued 136 citations against 82 unique employers resulting in nearly $900,000 in assessed restitution and $450,000 in penalties. The office issued 135 citations against 75 employers in the construction industry and assessed $1.7 million in restitution and $2.9 in penalties in fiscal year 2017.
“The Attorney General’s report shows that wage theft remains a major problem for workers in the construction industry and many other sectors of the Massachusetts economy,” said Francis Callahan, President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council. “This wage theft directly hurts workers whose wages are stolen and drives down wages and standards for all. We support Attorney General Healey and her Fair Labor Division and are committed to working together to combat wage theft and improve opportunity for all working people in our state.”
The Division also fielded more than 17,000 calls from members of the public and received more than 5,000 wage and hour complaints in fiscal year 2017. To increase resources available to victims of wage theft, the AG’s Office in October 2016 joined with community partners, law schools, and private bar attorneys to launch free monthly wage theft clinicsat Suffolk Law School. More than 250 workers have attended these clinics and received assistance with a range of employment issues.
To increase proactive enforcement, the Fair Labor Division has prioritized compliance visits in communities and industries across the state to discuss workers’ rights with employees, distribute materials on state wage and hour laws to employers, and note any concerns that require follow-up. The Division conducted 283 visits to businesses in 102 cities and towns during fiscal year 2017.
The AG’s Office has also enhanced focus on and outreach to some of the most vulnerable of wage theft victims, including immigrant workers. The Office has continued to work closely with immigrant worker centers and other community and labor organizations to reaffirm to workers that they are all entitled to legal protections regardless of immigration status and to enforce the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division is currently made up of 13 attorneys and 20 investigators. More than quarter of the Division’s employees speak at least one other language, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, and French.
Workers who believe that their rights have been violated in their workplace can call the office’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465. More information about the state’s wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at www.mass.gov/ago/fairlabor.