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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

AG HEALEY OPPOSES U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT’S NEW SELF-REPORTING PROGRAM FOR COMPANIES THAT COMMIT WAGE THEFT

AG HEALEY OPPOSES U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT’S NEW SELF-REPORTING PROGRAM FOR COMPANIES THAT COMMIT WAGE THEFT
 PAID Program Reflects Rollback of Federal Enforcement Supporting Workers

            BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of 11 attorneys general in strongly opposing a new pilot program from the U.S. Department of Labor that shields employers who violate labor laws from prosecution and penalties in exchange for simply paying the back wages that workers were already legally-owed.

            In a letter the coalition sent to U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta today, the attorneys general argue that the Department’s Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) Program encourages employers to require their employees waive important state law protections like higher minimum wage levels and longer time periods to sue in exchange for payment of overdue wages. Even though such waivers may not be enforceable against state law enforcement entities, employees may be misled into believing they have no legal recourse to fully assert their workplace rights. The attorneys general pledge to continue to prosecute labor violations to the fullest extent of their authority regardless of whether or not employers are participating in the program.

                “Wage theft is widespread in Massachusetts and across the country, so it’s more important than ever that partners in government join together to protect workers,” said AG Healey. “Unfortunately, this self-reporting program gives many employers an incentive to underpay and exploit their employees for personal benefit. We urge the Administration to reconsider.”

            The letter raises serious concerns with the PAID program, including its release of employers from their obligation to pay liquidated damages, penalties, and interest on overdue wages. The coalition further contends that the PAID Program does not to require employers to pay employees at higher state or local minimum wage or overtime wage rates, or to pay wages owed during longer state statute of limitations periods. 

Massachusetts workers are entitled to the higher state minimum wage of $11.00 even though the federal minimum wage is only $7.25, and they have three years to bring those state claims compared to two years for unintentional federal violations. Under the PAID program, employers could require their employees to release all claims even though they are only paying overdue wages at the lower federal rate going back two years.

            AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division has made cracking down on wage theft one of its top priorities. In addition to increased enforcement, the Division has partnered with 13 community based organizations to launch monthly free legal clinics that connect workers with advocates and attorneys to ensure they are getting paid the wages they are owed. To date, the AG’s Office has helped hundreds of workers recover more than $200,000 in lost wages from its Wage Theft Clinics.

Joining AG Healey in sending today’s letter to Secretary Acosta are the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Massachusetts workers who believe that their rights have been violated in their workplace are encouraged to file a complaint at www.mass.gov/ago/wagetheftFor information about the state’s wage and hour laws, workers may call the Office’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 or go to the Attorney General’s new Workplace Rights website www.mass.gov/ago/fairlabor for materials in multiple languages.

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