BOSTON – As a part of her continued efforts to protect workers and their families in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued the fourth 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 2019, the office assessed $9.8 million in restitution and penalties against employers on behalf of working people in Massachusetts.
“This Labor Day, our report underscores the problem of wage theft and the toll it takes on workers and families across Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “My office will continue to make it a priority to ensure that workers in every part of our state and across all industries get the wages they have earned.”
The Labor Day Report details the activities of the AG’s Fair Labor Division in fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019). During this period, the Fair Labor Division required employers to pay $5.8 million in restitution and $4 million in penalties and more than 11,118 workers received restitution as a result of the AG’s Office’s actions. The Division performed 165 visits to worksites across 72 cities and towns, answered thousands of calls from members of the public, and processed more than 6,300 wage and hour complaints in fiscal year 2019.
In fiscal year 2019, the Fair Labor Division broadened its efforts to protect the thousands of home health aides and nursing home workers who care for elderly and disabled consumers in Massachusetts. In one significant case, the owners and operators of Skyline Healthcare and five nursing homes in southeastern Massachusetts were cited $84,950 in penalties for failing to pay 106 employees and failing to provide pay stubs to 369 employees. State regulators closed the facilities in April, and the AG’s Office successfully secured a court-appointed receiver over the facilities to protect the health and safety of residents during the closure. This receiver was able to pay all employees all outstanding back wages, including wages for paid time off.
The Fair Labor Division also continued to target wage theft in the construction industry, which again received the largest percentage of citations from the AG’s Office in fiscal year 2019. The office issued citations against 209 construction employers and assessed nearly $3.1 million in restitution and penalties. In a notable case, the AG’s Office cited an Ipswich construction company more than $500,000 in restitution and penalties for violations of state wage and hour laws. ERA Equipment LLC and its owners received six citations for violations ranging from failure to pay overtime to failure to pay the prevailing wage.
AG Healey has continued to be active in challenging federal efforts to roll back wage and hour regulations and dismantle worker protections in fiscal 2019, including by opposing a proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor to scrap a rule that holds joint employers accountable for the proper treatment of their workers. The Fair Labor Division also secured a multistate settlement with five national fast food franchisors in which the franchisors will stop using no-poach agreements, which restrict a franchisee’s ability to hire employees of another franchisee within the same chain.
The AG’s Office offered free monthly wage theft clinics in Boston, New Bedford, and Springfield again in fiscal year 2019, and also expanded that program to Brockton. Nearly 250 workers have attended the clinics to meet with attorneys and advocates for free assistance on a range of wage and hour issues. With assistance from clinic partners, workers reported recoveries of more than $210,000 in restitution last year.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division is currently made up of 14 attorneys, 19 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.