June 23, 2017
BOSTON- Senator Sal DiDomenico recently testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of his legislation to prevent the illegal practice of wage theft and promote employer accountability. The bill, S.999, gives the state greater power to go after corrupt employers and provides additional tools for the Attorney General’s Office to hold violators fully accountable.
“The practice of wage theft comes in many different forms, but they all have the common denominator of hurting workers, their families, and our communities,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) in his testimony before the committee. “This legislation takes crucial steps to protect workers from this illicit practice and holds employers accountable for their actions. I respectfully ask for the Committee’s favorable report, and I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to take action and pass this critical bill during this legislative session to end this growing epidemic of wage theft.”
Wage theft- the illegal practice of not paying employees for all of their work through means such as violating minimum wage laws, not paying overtime, or forcing workers to work off the clock- has become a pervasive problem throughout the Massachusetts economy. The number of wage theft violations has especially grown as more companies move towards using independent contractors rather than full-time employees, overwhelming the capacity of our existing labor laws and enforcement mechanisms.
According to Community Labor United, approximately $700 million is stolen by bad employers from 350,000 workers in Massachusetts each year. The Attorney General’s Office, which is tasked with protecting workers in this state, successfully recovers $5.2 million annually.
Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to wage theft due to a reluctance to speak out against employers. As a result, these workers can sometimes go weeks without pay, and when they do get paid, it can be less than originally promised.
Wage theft also hurts legitimate businesses by putting law-abiding companies at a competitive disadvantage when they lose contracts to companies that charge less for their work by cheating their workers out of their pay. These bad actors also avoid paying taxes and into critical safety nets for workers, putting an unfair burden on Massachusetts taxpayers and the Commonwealth when employees have a legitimate right to utilize these programs.
To increase accountability in labor contracting and subcontracting, the bill holds lead contractors accountable for the wage theft violations of their subcontractors if there is a significant connection to their business activities or operations and enhances the enforcement power of the Attorney General’s Office by allowing it to bring wage theft cases directly to civil court. The Attorney General would also gain the ability to issue a stop work order in response to a wage theft violation.
To protect employees affected by a stop work order, the bill requires that employees be paid for the period that the stop work order is in effect or the first 10 days the employee was scheduled to work had the stop order not been issued.
The Massachusetts Senate passed Senator DiDomenico’s wage theft bill last session with nearly unanimous and bipartisan support. Coming off of last year’s victory in the Senate, the bill has strong momentum and supporters are hopeful that the legislation will clear both chambers of the Legislature and receive the Governor’s signature.
An Act to prevent wage theft and promote employer accountability is currently pending before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce development where is awaits a favorable report.