Senate takes action to prevent wage theft

BOSTON– On June 21, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of several bills, including legislation that would help prevent the illegal practice of wage theft and promote employer accountability. The bill, S.2327, gives the state greater power to go after wage violators and provides additional tools for the Attorney General’s office to hold violators fully accountable.

“Thousands of workers are stripped of their hard-earned wages every year in Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “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.”

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.

To crack down on wage theft and increase accountability in labor contracting and subcontracting, the bill holds lead contractors potentially liable for wages, as well as any penalties or fines, associated with wage theft violations. This provision includes an amendment filed by Friedman that would ensure that workers are paid in a timely manner when their wages are stolen. The bill also enhances 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 also establishes 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 addition, the Senate passed a number of other bills that would:

  • strengthen state-level protections against illegal ivory and rhino horn trading, aligning Massachusetts law with federal law;
  • ban certain toxic chemical flame retardants from children’s products, including toys and nap mats, upholstered furniture, window dressings, carpeting, and bedding that has been made or sold in the state; and
  • make modest updates to the Commonwealth’s administration of unemployment insurance (UI), including a provision that would permit a person to collect UI if they are forced to relocate due their spouse’s position in the military.

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