From the office of Attorney General Maura Healey...
BOSTON – As a part of her continued efforts to protect workers and their families in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued her third annual Labor Day Report on the office’s efforts to combat wage theft and other forms of worker exploitation. The report shows that in fiscal year 2018, the office assessed more than $9.6 million in restitution and penalties against employers on behalf of working people in Massachusetts.
“My office is committed to ensuring that Massachusetts workers in every industry are treated fairly,” said AG Healey. “When working people are protected, our economy and our communities are strong. On Labor Day, we honor the working men and women of our country and recommit ourselves to ending wage theft, supporting unionization, stopping labor trafficking, and advocating for workers every day.”
The Labor Day Report details the activities of the AG’s Fair Labor Division in fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018). 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 2018, the Fair Labor Division opened 729 cases and required employers to pay $6.8 million in restitution and $2.7 million in penalties. The construction and hospitality industries continued to have the highest percentage of violations cited. The office issued citations against 61 employers in the construction industry and assessed nearly $1.5 million in restitution and penalties in fiscal year 2018.
More than 4,000 employees received restitution as a direct result of the AG’s Office’s actions. The Division answered more than 15,000 calls from members of the public and processed more than 5,700 wage and hour complaints in fiscal year 2018. Also this fiscal year, investigators from the Fair Labor Division conducted 247 compliance and site visits to job sites and businesses in nearly 100 cities and towns throughout Massachusetts. To increase resources available to victims of wage theft, the AG’s Office has continued to partner with legal aid providers, law schools, and private bar attorneys to offer free monthly wage theft clinics in Boston, and this year expanded that program into southeastern and western Massachusetts. More than 250 workers have attended clinics in Boston, New Bedford and Springfield, where they were able to meet with attorneys and advocates free of charge to receive assistance on a range of employment issues. With assistance from clinic partners, workers reported recoveries of more than $166,000 in FY2018 in restitution.
The AG’s Office issued an advisory reaffirming public employee rights and employer obligations under state law in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. In the ruling, the Court overturned decades of law and practice relating to the right of a union to require the payment of fair share agency fees from public sector employees who decline union membership. The advisory highlights existing state laws that protect employee rights to organize and to act collectively, free of interference or discrimination by an employer. It also clarifies that the decision has no effect on existing membership agreements between a union and its members regarding union dues and does not change any laws that protect access to public employee’s personal information.
AG Healey also announced in fiscal year 2018 the Fair Labor Division is leading a multistate investigation of “no poach” clauses included in franchise agreements, which restrict a franchisee’s ability to recruit or hire employees who worked for other stores or restaurants in the same chain. Prompted by concerns that these agreements hurt workers and limit their ability to get better jobs, the state attorneys general have requested information and documents from these companies.
To identify more labor trafficking cases for prosecution, the AG Fair Labor and Human Trafficking Divisions trained their own investigators and attorneys and launched a Labor Trafficking webpage at www.mass.gov/ago/lt with resources for businesses and government about common signs of labor trafficking. In June, AG Healey mailed informational materials to each of the state’s 351 cities and towns, inviting municipal leaders to partner with the office in raising awareness among key municipal officials about forced services.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division is currently made up of 13 attorneys and 20 investigators. More than a third of the Division’s employees speak at least one other language, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole.
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.