- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- The Attorney General's Fair Labor Division
Media Contact for AG Healey Issues Labor Day Report on Office’s Efforts to Combat Wage Theft, Protect Workers
Boston — As a part of her continued efforts to protect workers and their families in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued the fifth annual Labor Day Report on her office’s efforts to address wage theft and other forms of worker exploitation. The report shows that in fiscal year 2020, the office assessed more than $12.3 million in restitution and penalties against employers on behalf of working people in Massachusetts.
“This Labor Day, we celebrate the countless workers across Massachusetts who have risked their health and safety to get us through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AG Healey. “As we work together to emerge from this crisis and reopen our economy, my Fair Labor Division will continue to rigorously enforce the state’s wage and hour laws to ensure that every worker in every industry is treated fairly under the law.”
The Labor Day Report details the activities of the AG’s Fair Labor Division in fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020). During this period, the Fair Labor Division required employers to pay nearly $6.7 million in restitution and $5.7 million in penalties and more than 12,939 workers were assisted as a result of the AG’s Office’s actions. The Division performed 173 visits to worksites across 92 cities and towns before the pandemic halted site visits in March 2020, answered thousands of calls from members of the public, and processed more than 6,000 wage and hour complaints in fiscal year 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis facing working families across Massachusetts dominated the Fair Labor Division’s work in the latter half of fiscal year 2020. The Division’s response to the pandemic focused on securing workers’ outstanding wages, access to paid sick leave, and workplace safety and health. The Division recovered more than $400,000 in final wages for more than 600 employees who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic-caused economic collapse and mobilized quickly to establish an internal Health and Safety Task Force to respond to workers concerned about workplace safety. The task force forged connections with state and local agencies, helped workers and consumers access critical information, published multilingual worker resources on the AG’s website, and assisted workers with concerns about paid leave and unemployment benefits. In total, the Fair Labor Division responded to more than 15,000 constituents who reached out to the Attorney General’s Office seeking assistance from March 11 through June 30, 2020.
In fiscal year 2020, the hospitality industry received the largest percentage of citations from the AG’s Office with 252 enforcement actions and more than $4.1 million in restitution and penalties. Most citations in this industry involved restaurants, including many assessed for violating the state’s child labor laws. The Fair Labor Division broadened its efforts to investigate child labor complaints and protect young workers in fiscal year 2020, with more than $3.4 million in penalties against 37 employers including chains like Dunkin’, Qdoba, and Wendy’s. In the largest child labor case handled by the AG’s Office to date, Chipotle was cited for an estimated 13,000 violations and has paid more than $1.8 million in penalties and assessments.
The Fair Labor Division also continued to target wage theft in the construction industry and assessed nearly $2.5 million in restitution and penalties against construction employers on behalf of more than 500 employees. In a notable case, the AG’s Office cited a Chicopee construction company and its president nearly $1 million in restitution and penalties for violating the state’s prevailing wage law for work performed on public projects. The Fair Labor Division also formed a multilingual Construction Site Field Team that conducted visits to construction sites, engaged workers and contractors, and shared information about employers’ duties under state wage laws. In total, the Division contacted 97 company representatives and interviewed 168 workers about wage and hour law compliance in fiscal year 2020.
AG Healey has also continued to be active in challenging federal efforts to roll back wage and hour regulations and dismantle worker protections in fiscal 2020, including by joining a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s decision to drastically narrow joint employer liability and allow businesses to more easily shield themselves from liability for wage theft.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division is currently made up of 17 attorneys, 22 investigators and seven intake and support staff. Forty percent of the Division’s employees speak at least one other language, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Vietnamese. The Division is responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the payment of wages, including minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and earned sick leave. It also protects employees from exploitation and wage theft through strong partnerships and community education.
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.