BOSTON – On May 14, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of S.1066, An Act to prevent wage theft, promote employer accountability, and enhance public enforcement, sponsored by Senator Sal N. DiDomenico (D-Cambridge).
Wage theft has become a pervasive problem throughout the Massachusetts economy, with an estimated $700 million stolen from 350,000 employees each year in the Commonwealth. This illegal practice can take many different forms, such as violating minimum wage laws, not paying overtime, forcing workers to work off the clock, misclassifying employees, or simply not paying workers at all.
According to a 2015 study conducted by UMASS Amherst Labor Center, wage theft has reached epidemic status. Too often, employees find that they have been paid below minimum wage or haven’t been fully compensated for the actual number of hours they worked.
“Thousands of workers are stripped of their hard-earned wages every year in Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman. “This illegal practice has continually impacted our workers, their families, and our communities, and it’s time for it to end. This important bill takes necessary steps to impose worker protections to prevent wage theft and hold employers accountable, ensuring that every worker receives the pay they are entitled to.”
To crack down on wage theft and increase accountability in labor contracting and subcontracting, the bill would hold lead contractors potentially liable for wage theft violations and impose penalties or fines for wage theft violations. It would also enhance the enforcement power of the Attorney General’s Office by allowing it to bring wage theft cases to court and seek civil damages.
In cases where there has been a determination of a wage theft violation, the Attorney General would have the ability to issue a stop work order, temporarily halting work until the violation is corrected. Employers would then have the ability to correct the violation and resume operation, or request a hearing.
The bill would also establish a wage theft compensation fund, administered by the Attorney General, to expend funds to workers and lead contractors under certain circumstances, as well as to provide worker outreach and education to prevent wage theft.
In closing her testimony, Friedman said, “To be clear, lead contractors are well aware, because it is their job, of each subcontractor’s progress. They know every brick laid and every milestone met. Just as we hold lead contractors responsible for any sub-par work of their subcontractors, we must also hold them accountable for their sub-par treatment of their employees.”
To continue tracking the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S1066.
Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Woburn.